A theatre is a wondrous place; yet sometimes a confusing one. It’s full of rules that we obey because these rules are inherent in us from an early age. We know that when the house lights go down, we should stop eating, talking, and texting, all because the show is about to start. We know that the actors on stage are lying to us and that the world of props, costumes, and effects isn’t real. But still it makes us cry, laugh, and rejoice. The Last Show of Mr. Chardish is a game about the theatre – or more to the point, a theatre director – and it hopes to entrance us with a tale that we hope isn’t “told by an idiot, full of sound, signifying nothing”. Let the show begin.
The Last Show of Mr. Chardish follows the lead role of Ella, partner of the acclaimed director and playwright Robert Chardish. Ella after many years wanders around the old theatre Robert used to premiere all of his plays at. Broken and unused, the story is told through the bits of audio interviews Ella finds covering his life. There are also documents, diary entries, and letters which give an insight into the highs and lows of the man’s career and his relationship with Ella. As you walk around, you find masks of all shapes and sizes dotted around the theatre. Try one on and you are transported into one of Mr. Chardish’s plays…
The writing and storytelling for the whole game are done extremely well and it is fascinating to see the way it unfolds. It also shows that the developers have done their research, putting a host of effort into revealing one man’s life and drive. I was completely sold on the real-life reveals of the story, but it’s when you go into the plays that the game adds another dimension onto the brilliant storytelling. You see, in one play you play as two robots escaping a factory, contemplating the meaning of their existence. In another, you are in a fairytale about a painter and flutist, painting the world with colour and hoping to live happily ever after. The Last Show of Mr. Chardish never failed to surprise me.
Gameplay-wise it all kicks off in the first person, leaving you to wander around the theatre and surrounding area, with things playing out like a normal narrative adventure. In the terms of the structure, the game can be compared to the likes of What Remains of Edith Finch, where you have a central premise – i.e.the house – but you go off into different realms like chapters in a book. In the first-person perspective, you can pick up objects to view and read, open doors and use switches; the journey you make is quite linear and all about exploration. When you find a mask though, the gameplay shifts dramatically…
Here The Last Show of Mr. Chardish switches to the third person and how the story plays out, dictates the gameplay style. In one, you play a boy traveling through the countryside with a toy sword where you fight paper mache puppets on strings. In another one, two robots will need to solve puzzles, navigating through traps and maze-like locations. In another, you will find yourself flying through a wondrous world, hitting checkpoints and uncovering more of the story as you progress. Each and every chapter is well thought out and whilst you’ll have your favorites, it has to be said that all are well designed and fascinating to play alongside the main story.
Visually the game looks great, capturing the imagination by recreating the broken-down theatre, but it also allows things to flourish in the play sections. I especially like the level where you are flying through the different worlds and landscapes, whilst a special honorary mention should go to the documents and posters you find lying around. Some set design and costume designs are so brilliantly designed and thoughtful that I longed to be back at the theatre. Yes there has been weird pop-in occasionally and some stutters, but they happen rarely and should be nothing to be alarmed about.
There’s an amazing soundtrack that powers Mr. Chardish, one that dives in and out appropriately when dealing with the different themes of the plays. It can become effectively emotional at times. The voice-over work is of a very good standard as well, especially from the two leads and personally I found the two robots’ dialogue and performance very touching.
Over the 3 to 4 hour running time, The Last Show of Mr. Chardish is one of huge enjoyment. Framed by theatre it takes us on a journey about regret, power, and ultimately love. It’s a game that is ambitious, adventurous, and inspiring, so if you want to get yourself on stage and tread the boards then come join the drama that is The Last Show of Mr. Chardish.
Join The Last Show of Mr. Chardish by visiting the Xbox Store