Adapting popular films, books or TV series’ into video games is no easy feat, with expectations often set fairly high by those interested in the franchise being used. Outright Games have pedigree in this area as publishers though, overseeing the production of solid titles such as Transformers Battlegrounds, Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, and Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure – to name just a few. That’s probably why they’ve been entrusted with the IP rights to create a family friendly game, with Stage Clear Studios, for the Netflix show and book series, The Last Kids on Earth.
The game in question is The Last Kids on Earth and The Staff of Doom, which is a semi open-world action-adventure RPG for up to four players to partake in locally. It also features an original story for fans to embrace and a fresh villainous foe looking to stir up trouble. Can The Last Kids on Earth and The Staff of Doom deliver a thrilling post-apocalyptic adventure that stays true to its roots, or is it so bad that you will seek the powerful Staff of Doom for yourself to put an end to the experience?
Actually, it’s landed somewhere in between those options, which means there’s a good chance you’re going to like it at least. That said, the enjoyment could be amplified further if it wasn’t for a couple of bugs causing unnecessary problems.
The Last Kids on Earth and The Staff of Doom is an adventure centred on four kids trying to stay alive after an apocalyptic event brought monsters and zombies into their town, Wakefield. There’s the over-confident and self-appointed leader, Jack Sullivan; the geeky, but ever-resourceful, Quint Baker; the powerhouse and former bully, Dirk Savage; and the one who’s rather good at everything, June Del Toro. Everything is going fine until the next big bad, Malondre, turns up and tries to use the Staff of Doom to summon Rezzoch, the destroyer of worlds. Fortunately, the staff breaks and pieces are scattered across town, buying the gang a bit of time as they race to find all four of the pieces and fix it up, all before Malondre does.
Although there’s a bit of back-story here, it is largely assumed that you’re already familiar with the books or TV series. What narrative is present is told through the use of comic book style storyboards, with Jack’s voiceover explaining the goings on. It’s fine and mildly humorous, however the decision to only feature Jack narrating means that you lose the back and forth he usually has with the rest of the team – there’s nobody for him to bounce off. The introduction of Malondre as the antagonist is a strange one too, because apart from the fact she’s the ruler of slimy monsters – which eventually lends itself well to the gameplay front – there’s not much effort to develop the character and it feels like a wasted opportunity.
The action is played out within an open-world that’s fairly restrictive in regards to which routes can be taken through Wakefield – hence, semi open-world. Everything occurs from an isometric viewpoint, no matter what aspect of the gameplay you’re experiencing. There are four different districts, which are then split up into a few smaller areas. All four main characters are available from the beginning and you can switch between them at designated spots within Wakefield.
For the main quests, you’re going to be given a destination to reach and will have to fight your way through enemies to get to it, with a large swarm of them awaiting your arrival. These see the story progress and every so often there’s a proper boss fight to deal with too. Meanwhile, the side quests involve doing similar tasks for many of the series’ supporting cast of characters e.g. Bardle and Chef. Taking such missions rewards you with XP and resources, but they are very samey and boredom might creep in.
While partaking in the missions, you can opt to go on the hunt for hidden treasure chests, collectibles and mini-dungeons to conquer. There’s a handy map for each area, pointing out the places of interest using question marks. The idea is that once you’ve reached the spot, the icon changes to one denoting what it actually is. In principle, the mystery of what awaits at each is great for curious minds, but when every question mark returns if you leave an area and come back, it gets a bit stupid. I presume it’s a bug, because it seems pointless to undo the effort of unveiling them all. Due to this, the most enjoyment occurs from just knuckling down and working through the story, taking out those pesky monsters along the way.
Depending upon which character you choose to play as, the moves in their arsenal are slightly different, but there’s a light attack and a heavy attack for each. There’s also a dodge, a special throwable weapon and a call for assistance to an ally. For example, Jack can make use of makeshift melee weapons, a stun boomerang and is helped by the adorable Rover, while June possesses blaster type weaponry alongside toxic frisbees and can beckon Biggun to cause damage. Considering the target audience is kids, that’s plenty of variety and it’s easy to grasp as it doesn’t over-complicate matters in the controls department.
Although the characters level-up, the improvements stat-wise are barely noticeable and there isn’t anything that can be done to influence which stats get a boost. Customisation is similarly minimal, despite an array of weapons and armour available to create from blueprints found throughout. It feels as if they’re mainly an aesthetic range of add-ons, with nothing much to separate them in terms of damage and such. Looking good is never in doubt though, being able to wear crazy costumes and wield weird weapons only kids would come up with while slaying enemies.
The enemies are pretty cool, with the general lot coming in the form of zombies and a selection of little monsters. Even within the zombie types, there are various kinds of threats to worry about; ranging from the slow and laborious to the fast and heavy hitting, with spitters lurking too. The fact that new baddies are added regularly as progress is made is great, especially when the slimy ones show up because they’re harmful even in defeat as the acidic green goo lingers for a moment.
Bosses mustn’t be overlooked either, as some of the gruesome monsters from the TV show have been recreated for tough encounters. Battling Scrapken and avoiding those massive tentacles is a real test, but that’s nothing compared to the awesome dragon-like King Wretch prowling and pulling off airborne attacks. Sure, the fights are easy compared to anything you’d encounter in a Souls-like game, however the attack patterns are present to learn and adapt to. It gives the youth a chance to test their patience and be a tad strategic in their approach.
It’s worth noting that there are two other activities trying to add excitement to proceedings – the Big Mama Challenges and a horde mode. That’s right, the Big Mama vehicle is included and is driveable around certain parts of Wakefield. The optional challenges involve collecting nuts (as in nuts and bolts, not edible nuts) within a set time limit. It’s a nice change to drive about, but my god the car is hard to control. As for the horde sections, which are part of the main story, well these are just far too basic with a small amount of turret options on-hand to protect your treehouse and new turrets hard to come by. To be honest, you could probably defeat the incoming enemies without any help from machines.
Unfortunately, during the adventure I stumbled upon a bug that completely locks away the treehouse upgrades. Even though my progression through the story wasn’t hindered too much, the fact that you can’t max out the stats for any equipment is like tying one arm behind your back. There were also times where enemies would bug out and I’d be unable to hit them, causing a stalemate of sorts.
Overall though, The Last Kids on Earth and The Staff of Doom does enough to warrant interest from those who enjoy the universe via other mediums. The gameplay is straightforward and the arsenal of moves will be exciting from a child’s point-of-view, while the boss encounters are a real highlight. All the favourite characters and a good selection of baddies are present too, with new ones included to add a bit of freshness. That said, the price could be a sticking point for 6-8 hours of content. Also, it falters in the storytelling and the unavoidable horde sections, but worse than that are the darn bugs. You might get lucky and sidestep the biggest bug, and if you do, you’ll find that The Staff of Doom is a decent options for fans of The Last Kids on Earth.
The Last Kids on Earth and The Staff of Doom is now available for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One