After completing Well Bred Rhino’s Last Stitch Goodnight twice, I’m still not sure what the title means. My best guess that it’s a reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, since the story takes place in an old mansion and concerns a mad scientist (or two) looking to create life itself.
But whereas the literary version of this tale is short and precise with it’s themes, this possible homage is less so. This indie Metroid-vania platformer is a strange mix of uninteresting combat, forced humor, deep philosophical ideas, and an impressively sprawling world.
It’s like Well Bred Rhino stopped creating its monster halfway through. The innards are impressive but the exterior could use some work.
The story here stars you the player. You choose the gender and what gender you ‘like’ and then you’re on your way to death!
No, the game isn’t that short.
You’re soon revived and taken from the hospital to the stereotypical ‘scary old mansion’. Your family thinks your dead and you’re the prisoner of the mad Dr. Dooley. They’re the one that brought you back from the dead by finding your ‘sol’ (basically a physical embodiment of the soul) and taking it out of you. Luckily the tutorial section of the game lets you guide your yellow glowing ball of a spirit back to your body.
You’re not incarcerated too long before one of the Doctor’s assistants, Lon, provides you with a means of escape. From there it’s up to you to deal with the mansion’s security, handle Dooley’s many different experiments, figure out just what’s going on, and find your freedom.
The narrative of Last Stitch Goodnight is a lot more complicated than my summation. There’s heavy ideas in there like the concept of the self, the need to create, the question of what energy actually is, and reproduction beyond biological reproduction.
There are some really interesting topics mixed in with Last Stitch Goodnight’s overall story and they don’t get bogged down by too many characters. There’s really only three: the aforementioned Dooley and Lon, and a robotics expert, Dr Wolchoz. The main character is mostly a personality-free protagonist who needs to do the right thing because that’s what heroes do.
Well, there’s another trait of our protagonist, and that’s a very apparent attempt at a sense of humor. While I found the weight of the discussions brought up in the game were hampered by the two-dimensional portrayals of the main three cast members, it was nothing compared to the poor juxtaposition next to the ‘comedy’. It’s easier to forgive a game script for not being able to flesh out its characters than forgiving it for trying so desperately to be funny.
For example, soon after the protagonist meets up with Lon in the jail cell, you make the following comment:
“Are you playing Good Cop? When do I get to TELLS ME ME WHATS [sic] GOING ON COP.”
It’s these action hero-esque catch phrases that just stick out like sore thumbs. Not all of them are as poorly worded as this one, but a lot of them do ruin the mood of a scene. Talking about metaphysics? Let’s throw a joke in there. Just barely survived an encounter with an unknown horror? Let’s break the 4th wall.
To be fair, there were a few times I did chuckle and the somewhat goofy design of the characters matches this sillier tone. However, the humor did come across as forced and was the weaker of the competing themes. I felt the darker, headier portions of the game is when the narrative was at it’s most compelling. There are a lot of questions and mysteries that are brought up during the story and most of them are left dangling, leaving you to figure it out.
Going back to the character design, Last Stitch Goodnight has a certain look to it that didn’t initially leave a good impression. In short, it looks like an early flash game. Characters are just a collection of stiff moving shapes (with circles for ever-clenched fists) and this does a disservice to certain elements of the game. At one sad moment of the story, the protagonist begs not to be left alone all the while with that static goofy expression plastered on his face.
However, the style did grow on me and the (many) monster designs later in the game were impressive and full of personality. Giant mech suits, apes, Lovecraftian humanoids, and robotic monstrosities all wandered the halls waiting to kill me.
The backgrounds were all done with 3D effects that felt out of the early 2000’s. This also was unimpressive at the beginning with lots of objects and walls looking bland and texture-less. However, later parts of the mansion become better thought out with bookcases and chandeliers and all different kinds of scientific equipment scattered around.
Strangely enough, a lot of the elements found within the first 3-4 hours of the game were lackluster. Everything just felt flat and restrictively straightforward (and strangely, the few spelling and grammar mistakes were during this period as well).
Without spoiling anything, a certain event transpired in the game and everything suddenly became a lot stranger. The map opened up significantly, new monster types seemed to appear in every new room, and side quests started to appear. Even the environments started to move away from standard evil lair/laboratory to more varied and inventive locations.
Unfortunately the combat remained its usual dull self for the remainder of the game. You’re given a number of different weapons but a lot of them feel the same: some have a stabbing action while others have a clubbing action. While the enemy types are in the dozens, my strategy of jump in, run away, and repeat generally didn’t change all that much.
Even the sub-weapons were mostly forgettable, with a health pack and grenades being the only options I used consistently. Even then, the crazy amount of health increasing collectibles made self-healing a non-issue about halfway through the game.
The one saving grace with combat were the boss battles. This was mostly because these fights generally played out as puzzles rather than straight club fests. Each weapon you come across can be used with interactive items within the mansion. For instance your screwdriver can unscrew things whereas your shovel can dig things up.
During a boss fight when lasers or hordes of enemies can be coming at you, the challenge of solving a puzzle and figuring out what tool to use becomes even more intense. And some battles aren’t even battles at all, leading to some much appreciated diversity. For instance, at one point you actual start to ‘heal’ one of the giant monsters. Other than a few fights (and there are quite a few) where it was frustrating to figure out the solution, these sections remained some of the best parts of Last Stitch Goodnight.
If you’re wondering why I’m forgetting about the music, it’s because it was… well… forgettable. It was nice to hear tunes that were of different moods and styles for different areas of the mansion but somehow not a single track comes to mind when I think back. The sound effects are mostly simplistic noises, with the most interesting being the Simlish jabbering that comes out of character’s mouths. I swear that one apparition enemy actually makes a ‘derp’ noise. It seemed fitting at times.
So after having a good look at the half-completed Frankenstein’s Monster that was Last Stitch Goodnight, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a mostly positive experience. The big guy isn’t much to look at at first but once you start peeling of his stitched up skin, you’ll find some pretty interesting stuff within. There’s still some useless appendix like organs like the clunky combat and the sad attempts at having a funny bone.
But the concepts patched together in the narrative, the multitudes of cool monster designs, and the unique boss fights make Last Stitch Goodnight worthy of a jolt of electricity to the slab that is the PS4. And with a price point of $12.99 USD, you won’t have to break the bank to play it. Just remember that in the end, it is still a monster.