Right before AI and the robots fully take over, there will be a brief moment where a human will be ‘The Last Worker’. But what will their profession be? A warehouse worker as in The Last Worker, a sports star finishing last in the final ever race between humans, or something else? I’d like to think they’d be a humble barista, serving one last latte to a sentient robot before the barista themselves are replaced by a machine. But don’t let this inevitable ending put you in a bad mood, The Last Worker manages to poke a lot of fun at humanity’s demise.
Satirical but with a deeper meaning underneath it all, in The Last Worker you are quite literally the last human worker at the Jüngle factory, the world’s largest online retailer that has nearly automated all of its employees, except for one. That’s because you have never made a mistake in your entire career. At least, not from a professional point of view; from a personal point of view, there are mistakes aplenty.
The Last Worker tells this emotionally engaging tale of Kurt, the last worker. After dutifully going about his day-to-day activities for over twenty-five years, his low-key life is ripped apart by the arrival of a new, sleeker robot that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the aesthetic in the Jüngle factory. It won’t be long before Kurt finds out just what this new robot is doing there within the factory.
There is a stellar cast involved with The Last Worker. Your playable character, Kurt, is voiced by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, known for his appearances in Fangavaktin, NOS4A2, The Tourist and Murder Mystery. He is joined by his robotic companions SKEW, voiced by the legendary Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films as well as Black Hawk Down and Event Horizon) and HoverBird. HoverBird is voiced by Clare-Hope Ashitey, known for Riviera, Doctor Foster and Children of Men. These are your main characters but David Hewlett, Zelda Williams and Tommie Earl Jenkins round out the cast.
As excellent a job as the voice cast do, it is the composer Oliver Kraus that deserves singling out. Having worked with the likes of Adele and Sia, it’s fair to say he knows what he is doing. And the soundtrack for The Last Worker smacks it out of the park, perfectly complementing what is happening on the screen at all times.
And what is happening on screen looks fantastic. It is cel-shaded based on drawings from comics legend Mick McMahon and The Last Worker looks exceptional. The environments are all highly detailed and even playing in 2D you get an amazing sense of scale regarding the size of the factory. This stylistic approach gives The Last Worker a unique and timeless look to it.
Some days, you will need to simply complete Kurt’s day job, namely picking parcels, checking them and then sending them off for delivery. It reminds of Shenmue and those mandatory days where you had to deliver crates around the docks, but with ever so slightly more engagement as you have to check the boxes for defects. It’s not entirely laborious, but not exactly fun either, especially when you end up doing it in later chapters after knowing what else The Last Worker can throw at you.
Your main tool throughout is your JüngleGun that allows you to perform a variety of tasks, and more as you progress. To switch between tasks you need to hold the Y button and use the d-pad to swap between functions. It’s a bit fiddly though, as you also need this to tag faulty packages and the Y button doesn’t always register unless held for a very specific amount of time.
It really is a hodge podge of different ideas and gameplay types, thrown together in the best way possible. There are the obligatory stealth sections and locked doors that require you to complete a puzzle that feel pretty much in keeping with the game. Then there are also sections where you need to control SKEW through tight tunnels that are more like an endless runner, as well as a brief couple of sections where The Last Worker may as well be a first-person shooter. It is an absolute joy going into a new section of The Last Worker and not knowing where it will take you next.
Initially, it was the story that piqued my interest when it came to The Last Worker. There is a real camaraderie between Kurt and SKEW – as well as a boat load of swearing – and you can feel the friendship between human and robot. The rest of the story doesn’t quite match up though; it feels very by the numbers as much as a story about a mega-corporation destroying the world can do. There are a few twists and turns to keep things interesting, but these aren’t anything you’ve not seen hundreds of times already. But, whilst it does border on the unoriginal side, it is never not engaging.
There are multiple endings too, ranging from the heavily emotional to the disappointing. Not disappointing to play, but a disappointing outcome given what has happened.
There is a lot packaged into the six-hour runtime for The Last Worker. With an engaging if slightly predictable story but more game elements than you can shake a stick at, it is a game that will take you through a range of emotions: laughter, sympathy, rage, compassion, disappointment, and everything in between. The characters are extremely well written and acted out, and the surrounding art and music complement things perfectly. There is just a lovely time to be had in The Last Worker, if you interpret lovely as taking down a mega-corporation from the inside out.
Step into the shoes of The Last Worker via the Xbox Store