A lot of indie adventure games try to replicate the distinctive feel of classic LucasArts point-and-clickers, but Loco Motive doesn’t just pull this off; it absolutely nails it. Set in the 1930s on a train speeding through the mountains of Austria, you play as Arthur, a straight-laced lawyer tasked with solving the bloody murder of his wealthy employer, Lady Unterwald.
It’s a classic Agatha Christie mystery, but with the goofy, self-aware humour of Monkey Island. Arthur is not a detective. Far from it. One of the train’s passengers calls him a square, and he takes it as a complement. Says he admires the straight-edged reliability of a square. But fate has decided he’s the one who will solve this case—especially when the only actual detective on the train also ends up with a knife in his back.
Loco Motive has everything I love about LucasArts adventures. Detailed, expressive animation, evocative pixel art, genuinely funny jokes with impeccable timing, slapstick humour, and absurd item combination puzzles. If you don’t like games like Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Island, it probably isn’t for you. But if you do, it’s the closest I’ve seen a modern adventure get to those classics.
It’s the little touches too, like the way Arthur occasionally turns to the camera and talks to the player, in the same way Guybrush Threepwood often does. And the moment when I pick up a briefcase and Arthur, realising it’s too big for his pockets, stuffs it down his trousers. “That’s a snug fit.” he says.
Loco Motive is short, clocking in at around an hour. But the feedback has been so positive that developer Robust Games is releasing an expanded version. Remarkably, the game’s four-person development team made this in two weeks as part of a game jam. You’d never think that playing it. It’s incredibly polished and well-realised.
You can play Loco Motive now, and it’s name-your-price, so you can grab it for free if you really want to. If you have any love for classic adventure games—especially LucasArts ones—this is basically a must play. Between this and Hitman 3’s Dartmoor level, the forthcoming episodic Sherlock Holmes game, and the success of Rian Johnson’s film Knives Out, it seems classic murder mysteries are back in vogue—and I am all for it.
And if you love detective games as much as me, check out my recently updated list of the best detective games on PC.