The Final Station isn’t what I thought it would be

And that’s a good thing

I don’t get a lot of time to play games these days, or write, or work on this website; life just gets in the way. But this week I managed to squeeze out some time to play a game I’ve had sitting in my Switch wishlist for some time: The Final Station. Let me tell you, I went into this game expecting a vastly different experience than the one I got, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The Final Station is a side-scrolling shooter with some train simulator elements tacked on. You play a train driver who is charged with delivering a special package in a world that is experiencing something called the ‘Second Visitation’. I mean, a zombie apocalypse by any other name…

Along the journey, you have to stop at various stations. At them your train is locked into place until you can find the code to release it again, forcing you to explore areas overrun with zombies. This is where I was surprised. I hadn’t done any research on The Final Station besides looking at the store page, so I went into the game expecting a neat little rogue-lite in an interesting world. What I found instead was a fairly linear side-scroller with some survival horror elements. To be honest, at first, I was disappointed. I’ve never really been a huge fan of side-scrollers and generally stay away from them, but The Final Station left me surprised. I found myself enjoying the challenge of making my way through the levels, trying to conserve ammo and find supplies, but also not being totally screwed if I ever made a mistake. Unlike in a roguelike, where death could and would end that particular run, The Final Station allows you to replay checkpoints and levels at your leisure. This took away quite a bit of the stress of each level and allowed me to play in a far riskier way than I would have otherwise. It was less about finding supplies to keep the survivors on the train alive and more about puzzling my way through each level to move onto the next. The premise of the trains is really just dressing for a fairly well-made side-scroller. This is where the issues arise.

The Final Station plays well. It features a variety of enemies that take different ways to kill. You have your standard zombies that take three shots to the body, or a single shot to the head to kill. You have your quick ones and your big ones and your armoured ones. All of them present their own dangers and challenges. The Final Station doesn’t lose points for its linearity, at least not for me. It loses points for the train sections. Most of the train ride is spent fixing a single broken part over and over again while watching your survivors food and health meters. Besides the fact that a different part of the train breaks down on each run, there’s no variety to it. It’s as though the developers had grander plans for the train sections but never really implemented them. To me, it makes more sense to have multiple parts of the train break during a train section to create a sense of panic and urgency, but it really just comes across as boring. And with the survivors, I get the feeling that I was just supposed to min-max their health and food to keep them alive. It would have been nice to have some hard choices to make instead. Do I save the scientist over the unemployed guy because one is better for our society or do I treat everyone as equals? I never really got to make those decisions because the situation never really came up and the only rewards for saving survivors was money and ammo. I think it would have been interesting to see that sort of thing play out instead.

Ultimately though, The Final Station is a good little side-scroller that I enjoyed. And to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to play something long enough that I can review it, so hooray for that.

3.5 / 5

Close is an Okay Action-Thriller that Doesn’t Stand up to Much Scrutiny

Major Spoilers Ahead.

Imagine you’re trying to cook something new. Maybe you’re bored of the same old meat and three vege and the takeaways are ruining your wallet. You fancy yourself a good cook, so you spend an afternoon looking up recipes and find one you think you can tackle. You buy the ingredients, you follow the instructions, but maybe you skip a few steps here and there. It’s okay, surely you can wing it a little, after all you’ve been cooking for a while now, you can cut the strings a little. You take the dish out of the oven and plate it up. It looks beautiful. Your mouth waters at the thought of biting into this succulent bit of meat that you’ve just prepared with your own hands. You take bite, and the inside is raw. You haven’t cooked it for long enough and now your experience is ruined.

That’s kinda what it’s like watching a Netflix Original film.

Close isn’t all that different. Starring Noomi Rapace (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Prometheus) as Sam, a bodyguard with a mysterious past and Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief) as Zoe Tanner, the heiress to a company fortune. After the death of Zoe’s father, Sam is hired by her stepmother Rima (Indira Varma) to escort Zoe to a safehouse in Morocco while the company goes through a massive land deal. Things go wrong and somebody attempts to kidnap Zoe, leading to the two becoming fugitives and being chased by corrupt cops all across Casablanca. I’m a terrible judge of acting ability, so I’m not going to comment on that too much, but Noomi Rapace outshines her co-star on this front. The action is fine, if a little too heavy on the deus ex machina at times. Overall the film does a good job of keeping you interested throughout. I even found myself on the edge of my seat in some scenes, but the film has a glaring issue that doesn’t really pop up until you’re done with it and you get some time to mull it all over.

The twist at the end of the film doesn’t make any sense. Close goes to great pains to paint the stepmother as the obvious villain, only to switch it up near the end, where we find out that the whole thing was orchestrated by a rival company to… well this is exactly the problem with this film. The plot only makes sense if the stepmother is behind the whole thing. Zoe’s father has left half the business, the controlling half, to Zoe. The stepmother is unhappy about this. Staging a kidnapping and murder makes sense as she would be next in line. The villain, the true villain, lacks any sort of actual motivation. During the film, Zoe kills a cop and becomes a fugitive and this causes the stock of her company to plummet. But the rival company couldn’t have planned this. Maybe their initial plan was to hold Zoe to ransom, but that can’t possibly be a good plan. As soon as the rival company ties itself to her kidnapping the plan falls apart. I think the biggest problem is that Close tries so hard to paint Rima as a bad person that it becomes very hard to believe when she’s suddenly revealed to be good. All of her interactions with Zoe are ones of scorn. There’s no subtlety about it. There’s no underlying hints that she actually cares. She’s evil stepmother until she isn’t, and it makes no goddamn sense. And in my opinion, the film would’ve been better if they’d just gone with it. The evil stepmother caught in the act, maybe the whole company goes down because of it. Zoe’s left with nothing, but it doesn’t matter because she found the mother she lost in Sam. I know that the evil stepmother routine is old and tired, but not everything needs a twist. A movie can be solid without trying so hard to be more than it is. Not every film has to be profound or mind blowing. It is absolutely possible for a film that plays the tropes straight to be good, and this one could’ve been.

Closing statement: It’s okay if you don’t think too hard about it.