view of Skew and Kurt in rear view mirror in Last Worker

last worker comment

last worker comment

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what is it? A first-person puzzle/stealth game in which you are the last human worker left in an Amazon-style warehouse in the far future.
expect to pay $20/£16
release date March 30, 2023
developer offi, wolfe and wood
publisher wired production
Reviewed on Core i5 12600K, RTX 3070, 32 GB RAM
multiplayer game? No
associate (opens in a new tab)

I went into The Last Worker (opens in a new tab) expecting some kind of deeply political capitalism—a game where “I” matter. Best case: something really urgent or touching in the moment, a bold artistic statement like Disco Elysium or Nolco. Worst case scenario: People are always posting didactic polemics about this “late capitalism” and then patting themselves on the back for noticing. Instead, I found a third forbidden thing: a brisk, mesmerizing jump with a broad anti-corporate theme, based on a stealth and puzzle game centered around a six-degree-of-freedom hovercraft.

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(Image credit: Wired Productions) (Image credit: Wired Productions) (Image credit: Wired Productions)

The Last Worker is a fun, short narrative puzzler that I’ve always enjoyed playing, but it’s not the poster child for the genre. You play the role of Kurt, who spent 25 years at the Amazon-like company Jüngle, weathering waves of automated layoffs through bureaucratic oversight, becoming the last human worker to sort packages in a Manhattan-scale logistics center. Please note: This game is fully playable in and out of VR, and I only had a chance to check out the tablet version before release.

small box

Parcel sorting is one of the two main game loops in The Last Worker. Using a compass projected from Kurt’s hovercraft, you must fly through the facility to your next package, inspect it for damage, weight discrepancies, or other errors, and send it to the appropriate “recycling” or fulfillment chute. I’m very excited about this mechanic ⁠ – it has thesis-like “trap” trolling capabilities, please bureaucratic wrestling: “Oh, you think this box is fine because it’s undamaged and weighs the correct weight? You idiot! You forgot to check the size!”

It’s a really fun setup, but I don’t think it’s used to its full potential during the game’s run. You’re introduced to basic concepts, adding more variables and complexities as you progress, but it never reaches a satisfying climax where everything you’ve learned comes into play. Likewise, I never felt in danger of failing to meet my quota. I think Last Worker could use the difficulty slider to reduce your allotment time and increase the number of curve balls it throws at you.

There are two sequences where you have to balance secondary objectives while taking the base round, and those feel really fun. On the one hand, you have to maintain your quota while cunningly sabotaging the company’s bots, and this structure of accomplishing your activism goals within shift time limits while not allowing your company’s metrics to slip briefly leads to real madness, sweaty, and mind-boggling. Unforgettable game. For now, you can only get a taste of this in The Last Worker, a glimpse of what its uniquely timed puzzles might be. Destroying the three bots is pretty easy, and not having a perfect jungle score at any given moment is actually a challenge.

sneak mission

Another major gameplay pillar of Last Worker, some arcade stealth in the fulfillment center sanctuary, better realizes the potential of its concept. Jüngle corp’s patrol robots have well-defined frustums and clear patrol routes that they won’t deviate from, making stealth all a matter of observation and timing. The Last Worker mixes this up with extra challenges or sub-goals, with one memorable sequence requiring you to complete two hacking puzzles at either end of a patrol route within a time limit.

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(Image credit: Wired Productions) (Image credit: Wired Productions) (Image credit: Wired Productions)

My biggest complaint about stealth is that I wish the verticality of the hovercraft was utilized more here. Your six degrees of freedom are well catered for in the warehouse work section, which lets you fly up and down a plethora of boxes to find your package, while most of the stealth section can easily be on the ground with your boots copy. There’s a scene where you descend through a silo, avoiding the robot’s circular patrol route on each floor. This one speaks to the potential of space hovercraft stealth, but is sadly a one-off event.

At the risk of over spoiling, The Last Worker is a bit like BioShock Infinite, the Rebels are actually a bunch of greedy bastards, bad on both sides. Your mileage may vary on how bad this is (I’m complaining), but overall the game’s story and characters are fun and entertaining. It was more straightforward than I expected: I got through the only twist quickly, and the final worker was perhaps a little too eager to explain its jokes. At one point, a character quipped, “How can Mr. Jüngle not improve, he has rainbow hair!” Thanks, but I kind of get it just seeing the hairstyle in question.

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(Image credit: Wired Productions) (Image credit: Oiffy, Wolf & Wood) (Image credit: Oiffy, Wolf & Wood)

Still, Jason Isaacs is a treat playing your little robot sidekick, and every time I hear this guy talk, I’m reminded of him playing Soviet general Zhukov in Death of Stalin(opens in new tab) role, this works for me. I also love the holographic product previews you see after a successful delivery: almost all of them are Simpson-esque puns and visual gags, my favorite being a “Grizzly Man Action Figure” featuring a Smallville Naherzog holds a bear cub.

I enjoyed my time playing The Last Worker – I think it’s a steal at $20, and I’m always happy to see more games like this: short, unique mechanics, backed by big budgets. At the end of the day though, it doesn’t reach the same highs as last year’s brilliant Scorn (opens in new tab), nor does it have the poignancy of other similar overt political games like Disco Elysium, Norco, or Night in the Woods.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.