March 30, 2023
After spending a few days working for the oppressive delivery company of Jüngle, I was already beginning to hope there was more to this life. From the vapid and draining messages from the boss playing through the speakers of the gargantuan warehouse, to the monotony of sending out deliveries of material goods nobody needs, I started to feel trapped, broken, and hopeless. The Last Worker is a narrative-driven adventure that manages to pull on the heartstrings as well as deliver some genuinely funny dialogue, voiced by a fantastic cast.
It looks at consumerism and capitalism and forces you to fight against a flawed system from the point of view of a man who’s firmly grounded in his comfort zone. Kurt has been an employee of Jüngle for around 25 years. He’s forgotten who he is and how to live a life outside of the confines of the damaging company, afraid to fight against them despite being only a fragment of the person he is. You begin to realise there’s more to Kurt – more to the man he is and was – and that there is love in his heart, fractured relationships fallen by the wayside, and people who mean the world to him no more than a distant memory.
There’s an interesting mix of gameplay in The Last Worker, or at least the ideas that make up your day-to-day role within Jüngle. You start most working days moving around the delivery rooms picking up packages and either dispatching them or sending them to the scrap heap. Each parcel has a weight and size, and sometimes it might not match your scanner. If it doesn’t you’ll have to get rid of it, just as if it’s damaged. There might be a box that’s fragile, which’ll need to be carefully moved or else you’ll fail if your JünglePod – the hover vehicle you travel in – takes a bump. If you pick up a seasonal item that no longer needs delivering, they’ll also need to be thrown away.
Each of these suspect packages can be labelled with your JüngleGun. To succeed on your shift, you’ll often need to get a good ranking, so managing these potential issues will all go towards getting a strong rating. Finally, there’s something known as Jüngle Pronto, whereby a package needs dispatching within a time limit or you’ll fail. All of these factors provide a varied workday, and while you’ll spend a fair amount of time on the factory floor sorting through these parcels, The Last Worker starts to feed you other objectives along with more of the story of Kurt and his journey towards overthrowing the evil company.
The Last Worker puts a lot of emphasis on the use of your JüngleGun. You’ll gain new upgrades as you play, all leading to various uses for the gun. Firing an EMP can take out security bots; the hacker tool will allow you to move blocks in a 3×3 grid to match a specific pattern within a time limit; tagging robots will let you see them on your mini-map; and certain parts of the environment can be moved, such as fallen beams, ventilation panels, and switches. Blended in with these ideas are sections that require stealth to evade certain bots, taking control of Skew, a little robot who’s your best friend, and other environmental puzzles.
Kurt is a wonderfully layered character that slowly feeds you with details of his life before his time working at Jüngle, the love of his life, his hopes and fears, and what has made him the shell of a man you find before you. When he encounters a small robotic bird that encourages him to fight back, his life changes forever, leading to an emotional end and an exciting journey amidst the monotony of his everyday life. Whether intentional or not, there are times when some sections of The Last Worker drags. Carrying boxes becomes a tad monotonous, and even some of the areas where you leave the delivery room feel arbitrary, which isn’t helped by trying to move the JünglePod.
It would help a great deal if you could strafe, as turning is awkward at times, especially when trying to evade a security bot. You can use a speed burst, but it tends to run out just when you need it the most. While not having a detrimental impact on gameplay, fixing these small issues would have made The Last Worker even better. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed playing despite the clunky nature of movement, and there’s such a fantastic chemistry between Kurt and Skew, voiced excellently by Jason Isaacs. Who knew Lucius Malfoy could pull off such a convincing Liverpudlian accent?
From start to finish, The Last Worker had moments of warmth and genius, featuring superb writing delivered by a talented cast. If Borderlands and Portal had a baby, this would be it, from the gorgeous cel-shaded art style to the general tone of the setting and story. There are some issues with the controls, but I found the puzzles and ideas present throughout kept me wanting to play more. It may not be a particularly long game, but it definitely left an impact on me.
Funny and heart-warming
Some clever gun mechanics
Some sections are monotonous
Movement can be clunky
The Last Worker features a well-written story and some smart ideas in regards to its gameplay, offering a solid narrative experience.