Last Call BBS is a collection of games that may or may not seem familiar. After all Exapunks’ Hack*Match and Eliza’s Kabufuda Solitaire are both here. There’s also a take on Solitaire called Sawayama Solitaire. But they’re all puzzle games designed to make someone think. They’re also a way to close out a period of time, as Zachtronics announced it will be a last title. Each one is special in its own way and feels unique, making it a fun collection of games that all feel “great” in their own way. At the same time, it is a salute to how PC gaming used to be.
Last Call BBS begins with the player “setting up” a Z5 Powerlance PC. You have access to the System, which lets you change the collection’s settings. There’s the Sawayama Solitaire already downloaded. Messages are left to you on a HandyMate by the PC’s former owner. These gradually tell you how to find games and offer insights into each title you acquire. Should you actually want to start playing, you need to open up Drive 0 and hop onto Netronics Connect to access the different games via a BBS. Each one actually takes some time to “download,” complete with modem sounds, and you need to wait for your download quota to cooldown before acquiring more games. The aesthetic is absolutely on-point. Every UI is designed to make this feel more like finding an old computer, rather than buying a collection of games.
As for the games themselves, they go between the completely original and unusual and the familiar. As mentioned before Hack*Match and Kabufuda Solitaire both appeared before in different ways. The versions here are either demakes, in the case of Kabufuda Solitaire, or an even larger version with extra single and multiplayer features, like Hack*Match. They along with Dungeons & Diagrams and Sawayama Solitaire, feel like new takes on classic titles you remember. Dungeons & Diagrams is a take on nonograms, as you’re attempting to create dungeon maps via coordinate information. Meanwhile Sawayama Solitaire is another take on Solitaire.
The other games feel a bit more original, due to either their gameplay or premise. 20th Century Food Court is all about timing, while also feeling a bit like a coding game. You need to ensure every order is made accurately, with parts coming together at the right times. ChipWizard Professional uses puzzles to build integrated circuits. So it can look and feel more complex than it is. Also, again, it feels like a coding sort of game. Steed Force Hobby Studio is about assembling Gunpla-like models. X’BPGH: The Forbidden Path is a bit foreboding, due to the cellular automation you’re trying to put together to, well, build a body. It’s complex and requires a lot of trial and error!
In each case, it might be tempting to leap in. Don’t you dare. Each of Last Call BBS’ games is incredibly unique. They also all provide a comprehensive tutorial explaining how they work with written and visual cues. So say you go into Dungeons & Diagrams without any context. You’ll never know every monster is at the end of a dead end or treasure is in a 3×3 room. With other games, they’re critical to find out how to place and remove necessary parts. Not to mention, all of them have the same sort of context and ambiance as everything else in the compilation, keeping the mood going. Also, paying attention to the difficulty level in the BBS itself is wise. For example, it lets you know Steed Force Hobby Studio is the game to play to relax, while X’BPGH is… not. I’d honestly have liked some better tutorials in game for games like it and 20th Century Food Court, rather than resorting to trial-and-error.
Still, it feels like Last Call BBS is a great way to say goodbye. This is a fantastic collection of games, with each one being special in its own way. It also is the sort of compilation in which there will absolutely be one game folks will love. Sure, some games might temporarily make you feel like you’re not smart enough until you “get” it. (X’BPGH definitely taught me things.) But it is worth the effort.