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To quote obscure British sketch show Bruiser, “I know writers who use subtext and they’re all cowards.” This is the storytelling philosophy The Last Worker takes when conveying its message.

There’s no room for subtlety here, and to a certain extent, I’m glad. You won’t need to spend much time playing The Last Worker to realize the perspective it’s taking. It’s anti-capitalism, anti-monopoly, and anti-automation, and it’s not afraid to throw those messages directly in your face.

Such an approach is good at putting these kinds of arguments in simple words that can’t be twisted or misinterpreted, which is, unfortunately, becoming increasingly needed in a world where anything anyone says gets dissected from all sides.

The Last Worker

The downside is that this still needs to be a fun game with a compelling story, and being so direct with its messages and characters means there’s not much room to go anywhere once you’ve espoused your manifesto. Things get bleaker and bleaker as you progress, and eventually, the constant chirping of messages gets tiring.

It starts strong though. You play as Kurt, the last human employee of global retailer Jüngle (get it?), and I love how his apathy towards the world is conveyed. He’s hit the pit a lot of us risk falling into where, even though we’re not happy we don’t want to risk changing the status quo, resigning ourselves to simply working to survive. This means that when a resistance movement comes along, trying to get him to be their knight in shining armor, he’s not interested.

Unfortunately, from there things start to go downhill, as Kurt does a 180 on the situation far too quickly. He’s still snarky about it for a while and ultimately does it to help his robot friend, Skew, but he becomes willing to help the resistance really suddenly, which undercuts the apathy set out in the opening.

The Last Worker 2

I wish The Last Worker had taken a slightly different approach to its story. I realize it may have been limited for game development reasons, but I think it would’ve benefitted from a slower burn, showing how gradual shifts in a person’s perspective can eventually lead to big change. That’s ultimately what this story wants to encourage in those who play – it wants you to make change. It’s a message I can get behind, but this story didn’t do it justice.

I’ve avoided talking about the gameplay until now because there isn’t that much to shout about. You have you fly around the Jüngle warehouse picking up packages, making sure they’re fit to be sent out, and then either sending or recycling them. Each day, a new rule or secondary task is added, giving you more to think about as you do your work, á la Papers, Please.

A few games have aped this formula and done well with it, Not Tonight and Not For Broadcast spring to mind, but The Last Worker is an example of how to do it wrong. To use Papers, Please as a comparison, the amount of information you’re given is deliberately overwhelming so that you have to rush through it and risk making mistakes – mistakes that you don’t want to make because then you won’t be able to provide for your family.

The Last Worker 4

In The Last Worker, you’re never given more than you can handle. You can tell whether or not most packages are good to go at a glance, so you never feel any impending pressure that your job is on the line. There’s also no incentive to get a good performance. You’ll fail if you get an F rank, but anything at rank E or above will let you progress, and there are no secondary mechanics to force you to do better, as your rank makes no difference to the story.

Then there are the purely story-focused sequences, where you have very little to do outside of occasional busy work. Even the closest thing this game has to “boss fights” involves extremely simple actions and isn’t particularly interesting to watch – and that’s mostly what you’re doing, watching.

The Last Worker 3

VR hurts this game significantly. All of the mechanics, from the basic interactions to the more advanced tools you get later on, are really boring to use, and it’s seemingly because they have to work in VR as well as regular play. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to make such mechanics feel great in VR, but The Last Worker is more like something that came out of the early VR boom in 2016/2017.

Interactions are simple, being done with a mouse as easily as a wave of the hand in VR. It’s nice that it can be played both with and without VR, but it means both experiences are less interesting as a result.

I appreciate what The Last Worker is trying to push, and I love the 3D comic book art style, but the gameplay and writing are extremely disappointing. Everything it tries to do has been done better before, and every session I had with it ended in boredom.

Score: 4/10

Version tested: PC (Steam)