I know what you need: some good ol’ fashioned puzzle games. Let me just boot up this old computer for you (don’t mind the dial-up), and get you started. Last Call BBS is a whimsical new take on what made the “old days” of gaming great. Load up a dungeon, paint some figures, and sink your teeth into this pixelated call back (you may have to play a game of Solitaire while you wait for things to download).
Last Call BBS is just oozing with charm. It makes me nostalgic of playing old games on my home computer (no Mom, don’t call anyone, I’m playing a game!) Reminiscent of the Commodore 64 and games like ADVENTURE, Last Call just has it all. When you first start the game, you are welcomed to explore this desktop that used to be the hub spot for “underground” black market games (jail-breaking in our sense). You have a collection of games you can download from the secret site (very command-line-esque), which you can boot up in your hard drive. Once the games are on there, you have free reign to just waste your day working out the puzzles.
There’s one thing you should know: Last Call BBS takes itself seriously (in the most whimsical way possible). What I mean is, when you are “downloading” a game, it takes time to download. Real time. 13 minutes or more depending on the game. Luckily you already have Solitaire loaded, like all good computers do. You’ll smile as you think to yourself “I’m playing Solitaire in a game I paid $20 for. This is peak entertainment.” It is worth every penny it asks for. The games offered are all puzzle-based, so there is no rush or pressure. Take your time and savor every bit of it.
It would take some time to go into every bit of detail of each game, as there are quite a few, and I want you to experience the surprise for yourself as you discover your favorite. You need to be aware of how Zachtronics games work, though: they love rulebooks. Each game may have pages of manuals that you’ll have to flip through. Some of the puzzle is understanding what the rule book means. These games are not ones where you can click your way through and fudge the answer, you HAVE to read the rulebooks. Knowing full-well that this is Zachtronic’s gimmick, I was relieved that the rulebooks weren’t super-intensive, and explained the games quite thoroughly.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Okay, it’s a bunch of mini game puzzles, but what’s the point?” Having reviewed Acolyte previously, a whole game about conspiracies, I was thinking the same thing to myself. Is there some secret to unlock? Is there a deeper storyline than the backstory of the fake creators of these games I’m downloading? The answer is: nope. Maybe I’m not at a level of puzzle mastery to get some deeper story, but what I found in Last Call BBS is mainly what you see is what you get. There is no real story besides you’re using someone’s old computer to play some retro games. And you know what? That’s totally fine.
In today’s age of games, we expect them to have the best, most realistic graphics, have hours upon hours of gameplay for only a few dollars, and other insane amount of requirements, making the developers stressed with building amounts of pressure put upon them if their game doesn’t meet a fan’s specific requirements. If you’re buying a Zachtronics game, you know what you’re getting. Zach says, “Woah there, chill out, play some Solitaire. Oh, don’t like Solitaire? How about a different kind of Solitaire? Or painting some robots? Pretty cool, right?” You can have multiple games going on at once, toggling between them all in their own windows. If your brain gets fried figuring out how to serve cheesy nachos to customers, go back to building some picross-style dungeons, or mutate some flesh monsters (yes, that’s a thing, also my favorite game). These are puzzle games for people who want puzzle games.
As I said before, Last Call BBS is full of charm. It would be without it if it wasn’t for the wonderful art and perfectly timed computer sounds. The art design is pleasing to look at, with pixel-perfect art design, colors perfectly chosen to portray the right mood of the game, and clear enough so you’re never questioning what you’re looking at. The music has wonderful jingles for each game, where I find myself humming along as I’m struggling through a tricky problem. The sound effects perfectly emulate an old computer, with its dial-up sounds, open new windows, and clinking robot parts together, all super satisfying.
I think the only negative thing about Last Call BBS is if you’re not into puzzles. If you’re not expecting a game full of rulebooks and aren’t locked into a “see things as they are” attitude, you may be left disappointed. No, it’s not just a game with Solitaire, robot painting, or assembly line organization. It’s all of those things, plus more. Being able to present these games in a clean, straightforward design takes a lot of work to get right.
If you’ve been wanting to push yourself in your puzzle knowledge, Last Call BBS is something that shouldn’t be missed.