Review – The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom
Yet another licensed game has been released by Outright Games, which dropped Spirit: Lucky’s Big Adventure not even a week ago. For as much as I am already aware I shouldn’t expect much for a title of this “caliber”, I’m always glad to tackle these kinds of games. Licensed tie-ins are almost never as good as your average AAA, but they’re my Achilles’ heel. They remind me of a simpler time in gaming and feature a weird kind of charm that cannot be matched by any other type of game. I’m always glad when a licensed game ends up being better than just “mediocre” or “recommend only for fans”. This was the case with DC Super Hero Girls, and thankfully, it’s also the case with The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom is based on a Netflix cartoon series, which is also based off a series of children’s books about… a zombie apocalypse. Before you think this is some kind of dramatic cartoon, a Walking Dead or The Last of Us for kids, be advised that The Last Kids on Earth makes the end of the world sound like fun.
These kids all hang out in a treehouse where they play video games all day and then go out for a bite on a nearby pizza parlor run by one of the “good” monsters. Every now and then, however, they hop on their souped-up SUV called Big Mama and beat up a ton of zombies and other “evil” monsters. I don’t know why Ellie was so down in her games… these kids seem to be having the time of their lives in the middle of Armageddon.
This game basically takes the core concept of the show (a lighthearted take on a zombie apocalypse with friendly yet annoying kids hanging out with monsters) and throws it into a hack n’ slash heavily influenced by the likes of Diablo, albeit with a hundredth of the depth. You basically pick one out of four different kids, each with different stats and playstyles, pick an objective, and then set out to explore a pseudo-open world where things usually boil down to going to a place, killing hundreds of zombies, collecting an item or talking to an NPC, then going to another place to repeat the process.
It sounds quite predictable, and it would have certainly been if it wasn’t for a small detail: The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom features shockingly good controls. It’s your basic hack n’ slash combat system, with a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge roll, a ranged attack, and the ability to occasionally summon a monster to perform some big area-of-effect attacks. Nothing out of the ordinary, but the combination of your character’s strength, the accessible difficulty curve, and excellent framerate (60fps at all times, without a hitch) resulted in a much more exciting experience than expected.
Every now and then, the game’s villains will decide to attack your treehouse, but that’s when another element featured in here shows up: tower defense. You can customize and improve the defenses of your treehouse with turrets and armor. You’ll then partake in small survival sections against hordes of zombies coming your way. It sounds tense, but it’s pretty easy, just like a game aimed at kids should be. It gets even easier if you decide to play this game with a friend, since there’s support for up to four players locally.
It’s safe to say that The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom‘s gameplay pretty much saved the game from being a flop. Visually, the game isn’t exactly bad per se, following the show’s art style pretty closely, but it’s mostly comprised of simple 3D assets that could have easily been rendered on much weaker consoles. The problem lies in its sound department, which is comprised of half a dozen horrendously compressed songs which sound worse than fifth gen MIDI. Then there’s voice acting, which isn’t bad, but is so frequent and devoid of charm, you can’t help but feel like letting the zombies eat everyone in your squad just so you can enjoy a few minutes of silence for the sake of your ears and sanity.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom is flawed beyond belief when it comes to its presentation, but I definitely wasn’t expecting for its gameplay and controls to be so solid. Nor was I expecting for it to feature some engaging bouts of vehicular combat and 4-player local co-op. It follows the same trend as most mid-range licensed titles out there: if you (or your kids) are a fan of the show, go for it. It respects its source material and offers a sizeable amount of bang for your buck. If you have never heard of this show before, you might still get some enjoyment out of it if you’re a fan of Diablo clones.
It doesn’t feature the best 3D models out there, but it follows the show’s art style to a respectable degree. It also runs pretty well.
Fast-paced hack n’ slash action with responsive controls and a pretty good framerate. I wasn’t expecting for its combat mechanics to be as polished as they ended up being, which was a very pleasant surprise.
There is an excessive amount of voice acting, which can be irritating at times, but I can’t deny the voice actors did deliver good performances. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is shamefully bad, being repetitive, boring, and heavily compressed.
Fun Factor: 7.0
The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom is fun not due to its connections to the show, but because its gameplay and controls are way more enjoyable than its bland presentation would have made you think.
Final Verdict: 7.0
The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom was provided by the publisher.