PAX Online: The Last Show of Mr. Chardish
Not all games are a concern of invading alien forces, military conquest, or even trying to pick out just the right decor for your village. Video games are an art form and over the years we have had many releases go above and beyond to captivate us and compel us into an emotional response. The Last Show of Mr. Chardish might sound like a mouthful of a title, but upon completing the first chapter of the game the weight of this adventure clicks into place.
Inspired by other first person emotional journeys such as What Remains of Edith Finch, The Last Show of Mr. Chardish carries with it an heavy weight as soon as the main character, Ella, returns home to England after traveling abroad and takes one last stroll through her past as an aspiring actress and the loss off her best friend and legendary director Robert Chardish. The game is mostly told through her eyes as Ella returns to the abandoned theater in which she used to perform. The quiet and peaceful land which surrounds the old broken down stage is relaxing, somber, and beautiful. You’ll find notes left from decades passed and occasionally Ella will pull out her tape recorder and play back a segment of Roberts final interview. It is established early on he has a bleak prognosis from the doctors and hearing this finally makes the title of the game click.
Robert Chardish was a troubled artist, writing brilliant one-man plays in which he often wore a mask to complete his transformation. Whenever Ella finds one of these masks she puts it on and the player is transported into a surreal interpretation of Roberts play, acting it out in beautiful puzzle platforming fashion. Ella is mourning her friend and the entire game appears to be looking back through fond eyes at her friend she has lost and remembered his brilliant work. It’s emotional. It’s impactful. It draws you in and asks you to feel which is quite easy to do.
During my time with the game I could see the nuance in the puzzles, the character design, even the scribbling Ella would find about. It’s a game of soul that doesn’t just hand you the answers. While still in development, the only aspect that actually took me out of gameplay was the awkward breathing of Ella herself. For some reason even when not running I could always hear Ella breathing. It didn’t really add anything to the game, maybe it was a bug, but it was easily the one and only thing that broke my immersion.
I knew this was going to be a heartfelt story going into it, but I didn’t expect the gravity of loss and loneliness that surrounds The Last Show of Mr. Chardish. That first level playing as Robert during his one man show, his sense of being abandoned and alone all the time, it hits deep. There are a ton of great moments in chapter one of this game and I would be surprised if it doesn’t get more and more emotionally complex.
The Last Show of Mr. Chardish is set for release in Q4 of 2020 on PC and Xbox One, with Chapter One available to play for free on Steam. For more information be sure to check out the game’s official website, and for all things PAX Online keep it locked on COGconnected.