[Review Rewind] The Last Guy
I recently dug up The Last Guy on PS3. No, that was not a typo, I did not mean to type The Last of Us. I am, in fact, referring to the possibly forgotten nugget of weirdness that graced the PSN back in August of 2008.
A downloadable game from Hindustan Electronic Company LTD, a three-man team from the Himalayas – if the promo material for these guys is to be believed (it’s not)… the game is actually from Sony’s Japan Studios.
So what exactly is the Last Guy? Well, The Last Guy is a top-down puzzle game where you play the role of the eponymous Last Guy who, for some reason, seems to be the only one who can lead the world to safety after a zombie outbreak. The game sees you traveling to real world locations, trying to lead a certain number of civilians to safety within a strict time limit.
I think what first drew me to the game was its simplistic design. Aerial shots of famous cities from London to Tokyo to LA (and more) were literally used as the layouts for each level. The aim of the game is for you to navigate your way through the map, trying to bring together as many civilians as possible, who are hiding in the buildings, and lead them to the escape zone whilst avoiding all the zombies on the map.
The game, though simple, becomes complex and sometimes frustrating as you progress through it. Each time you find new civilians, they join you in an ever-growing conga line of people, and this is where the game’s interesting use of “risk and reward” comes into play. For every hundred civilians you gather without banking them in the escape zone, your bonuses will increase.
Having several survivors with you is great because You’ll be able to surround a building with your line to instantly add everyone inside into your line, but the longer your line the easier it becomes for the different types of Zombies to spot and attack your group. If a Zombie attacks your line, your civilians will panic and run into the nearest building.
Nothing is more frustrating than amassing a long line only to have it instantly shortened by an unseen Zombie, and this will happen a lot as some details are difficult to make out on the map. For example, which buildings are accessible or which pathway is blocked off by an unseen obstacle, or where small groups of civilians are gathered together.
Luckily there are some tools which help to counteract such frustrations. For example, holding the X button shows a thermographic display of the map in which your civilians are displayed as green dots but, as a downside, most of the Zombies will become invisible so it is advised you use this skill sparingly. Holding the O button causes the conga line to contract into a large huddle that allows stragglers to catch up, leaving the line less open to attacks, but if you are attacked you stand to lose more civilians from your line. Triangle allows your line to sprint, but this requires stamina and makes your line a lot longer than it should be, leaving you wide open to cheap attacks.
I can see why I was drawn to it when I first stumbled upon the demo all those years ago. For a game that is so simple in premise and stupid in presentation, it becomes more nuanced the deeper you delve into it. I remember playing a long time ago and being luered not only by its visuals but also by its audio design. At first it was off putting but over time I came to appreciate the random bursts of what I assume to be Hindu/Punjabi and the use of classical music as well as a good and catchy but repetitive original soundtrack. Long story short? The game was unlike anything else.
Back then, that was one of the main things PSN had over its competitors. Whilst it lacked the big names, it did have originality and very few were capable of showcasing unique ideas like Japan Studios.
Looking at it today, the game is still as good as it was back then and with today’s greater emphasis on Indie games, Last Guy fits in perfectly. Along with being a simple affair, it is still as fun now as it was back then, still as challenging as it was back then but, at the same time, still as fun.
Only thing I’m left wondering is: is it time for a sequel/re-release to be available on PS Vita/PS4?