Some games are worth checking out just for the sheer oddity of it all. The Last Guy for the PS3 fits this bill perfectly. This little puzzler is just plain impossible for me to classify, with its overly cheesy premise, simple-seeming game play, and maddeningly addictive tendencies. I found myself constantly drawn back to this one without really knowing why, losing many more hours than I thought possible at first glance. And all this for the price of a nice lunch.
The story, such as it is, goes like this: A strange purple ray strikes the planet. This kills off most of the population, and many of the survivors turn into hideous monsters (inexplicably called “zombies”). The few remnants of humanity need saving. That’s where The Last Guy comes in. He’s (it’s?) a zombie from the Himalayas, complete with red cape, and he wants to save mankind. And so it begins.
The entire game takes place on real-world satellite maps of various familiar locations. This is strange. Players control The Last Guy as he wanders about the map. Humans that need rescuing just seem to automatically know that this zombie happens to be a good guy (it must be the cape), and they instantly and precisely follow Our Hero. After a little while, The Last Guy has a conga line of humanity trailing behind him, tracing his path exactly as he walked it. Some of the humans are just standing around the map, but many are hiding inside the various buildings. When The Last Guy stands near a building, the inhabitants quickly exit, allowing them to be collected and added to the line. To make matters even more odd, as the line behind The Last Guy gets longer, he becomes stronger, gaining additional stamina used to power his few special abilities. More on that later. Each map has a requisite number of people that need rescuing, and The Last Guy needs to shepherd these folks to the rescue zone before time runs out. Which would be simple, if it weren’t for the other zombies.
The other purple-ray mutants seem to want to do nothing more than ruin The Last Guy’s day. These zombies come in a variety of flavors, like ape-like Zombies and bug-like Zombies, each with a different personality. Some of them patrol the streets, hungering for The Last Guy, others just aimlessly wander about. All of them will kill The Last Guy should they catch him, and (even more frustratingly), should they get too close to the tail of humanity, the folks run screaming from the line into the nearest shelter. This causes players to run back and collect them all, a time-consuming (and often game-ending) proposition.
Thankfully, the maps are randomly sprinkled with various powerups, such as stamina increases, zombie freezers, and some nifty warp points. In addition, the last guy has a few abilities of his own, both of which eat up precious stamina. First, he can hit a turbo-boost, necessary to get the line moving a bit more quickly to dodge those zombies. Secondly, he can round up the troops, causing his line of followers to quickly cluster around him (and hopefully avoid any pitfalls). The Last Guy also has the ability to switch views to an “infrared” map, highlighting the humans to be collected, but turning most zombies invisible.
The level design is actually well done. The first few levels are nice and simple, but the difficulty soon ramps up. Players need to learn the tricks of the trade quickly, such as saving the powerups for just the right time, or learning that encircling a building with the humanity trail will instantly collect all the humans inside. The Last Guy really can’t be played cautiously, as I often found myself skirting zombies by the skin of my teeth and dashing at the last second to drop off the needed amount of humanity. It can be frustrating at times, especially when it’s not clear which parts of the satellite map are impassible and which are little life-saving alleys.
The game looks neat, but very simple. It’s just an overhead satellite view with a few animated critters running around. The controls are pretty clean, but I would often find myself hung up on an invisible corner of a building, losing precious seconds and ultimately restarting a level. The sounds are funny at first, especially the constant B-movie screams , but I found the music and effects to get a little annoying after a while. Still, The Last Guy managed to keep me occupied much longer than I thought it would, and I found myself enjoying most of my time. For the price, it’s certainly a decent way to kill a few afternoons.