It’s been a busy few months for developer Wolf & Wood, what with the marketing for both The Last Worker and its upcoming PS VR2 exclusive: C-Smash VRS (insert shameless plug of preview here). They’ve certainly been busy! With Jörg Tittel of Oiffy as creative director and featuring an all-star cast — including Jason Isaacs and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson — The Last Worker certainly looks like an interesting narrative-driven puzzler on paper, but was it entertaining enough to see through to the end?
As a quick aside, it’s worth noting that The Last Worker is compatible with both VR and a television/monitor. This review is entirely based on the non-VR version (sorry, PS VR2s are expensive!), though; thankfully, it didn’t feel like one of those titles that are clearly made for VR and hastily ported to be played with a controller.
You play as Kurt, a 25-year veteran employee at the soulless retail mega-corporation Amaz- I mean, Jüngle. After the company shifted towards full autonomy, Kurt becomes the last human worker, living in the Manhattan-sized warehouses of Jüngle as he seems to have come to terms with the fact that his life has little purpose outside of his job.
Kurt has a simple role to play in the company: collect boxes using a hovering cart (the JünglePod) and the gravity gun-like JüngleGun and deposit them into large delivery chutes. Kurt’s job is at its most exciting when checking the boxes for any damage — that is to say, it’s not very exciting at all — and his robotic companion, Skew, is at his side most of the time to provide some “friendly” banter.
However, this isn’t a simple parcel delivery simulator, and it isn’t long before Kurt is thrust into a conflict between Jüngle and activists — known as S.P.E.A.R — hell-bent on bringing them down. The characters you’ll meet along the way are all endearing in their own way (I had a particular soft spot for the Liverpudlian robot, Skew) and Kurt is definitely a character you can root for. Whilst I was never blown away by the plot's intricacies, and the pacing felt off on occasions, I did enjoy how it all played out and was thankful it was more in-depth than a simple “big company is bad” narrative.
The Last Worker has a great cell-shaded art style, with some human and robot designs that reminded me a lot of Borderlands due to their unique, exaggerated designs. The same can be said about the various environments. I was expecting it to be full of drab corridors devoid of life due to the game's setting, but the majority of them were brightly lit and awash with colour. Though some areas are indeed as dull as you’d expect a faceless corporation’s warehouse to look, the excessive use of colour and lights ensures it’s never boring to take in the sights.
Sound design is also great, and it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that the voice acting is superb; Kurt sounds utterly defeated, and as someone who’s worked terrible jobs in the past, I feel his pain. There’s some good music to be found here as well, I just wish there was more of it, as many areas felt too quiet outside of the machinery sound effects buzzing away in the background.
Each in-game shift consists of a race against the clock to deliver each package to the correct chute. You’ll need to check details such as the size and weight of a box or if a product is damaged, and deposit them in the right area. Make too many mistakes, and you’ll be fired, forcing a level restart. It was a satisfying loop that reminded me a little of the feeling I got in Papers, Please when I managed to correctly guess my way through a shift. It never felt difficult, nor did the timer feel too strict, and never got overly-complex with juggling many different variables, in fact, it was rather relaxing!
It’s not all about providing a service in The Last Worker, and after Kurt’s shift ends he’ll be exploring the restricted areas of Jüngle partaking in some stealth sections. They’re nothing ground-breaking, but they were a nice change of pace and even required a bit of brain power to outwit the security robots.
No matter what you’re doing, the controls work the same. The JünglePod is agile, and allows for some verticality to give you more freedom (especially helpful during stealth!) as well as allowing for the level design to feel much grander. Kurt’s hovercraft also comes equipped with a mini-map, so the labyrinthine Jüngle warehouses are much simpler to navigate.
I genuinely enjoyed my time with The Last Worker, and actually wished it lasted a little longer, with my final playtime clocking in at about seven hours. Pacing issues with the story aside, this adventure is definitely one worth experiencing, and I’ll certainly be diving back in when I pick up a VR headset!
The Last Worker (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
The Last Worker delivers in almost all aspects: beautiful aesthetics, great dialogue, and a satisfying gameplay loop all combine to create a genuinely fun title that is much more than what I initially expected.