The Last Worker review: From wage slave to revolutionary
(PS5/Xb/Sw/PC) **** Age: 16+
We can’t help ourselves. As consumers, we’re well aware of the questionable work practices at big online retailers or the perilous jobs in the gig economy. But that doesn’t stop us ordering more tat off the internet or dialling up a takeaway delivered by some exhausted soul on a bike.
The Last Worker asks us to examine our conscience – but in a fun way and not as if being lectured by Greta Thunberg. This satire of overzealous consumerism traps you in the shoes of a warehouse operative enslaved to a mega-corporation called Jüngle that bears all the hallmarks of Amazon if there was no employment legislation.
Kurt has survived more than “9,000 days” in the job and is the only human left among an army of robot drones picking from the shelves of a vast factory and transporting the items to the departure chute. With its eye-catching comic-book visual style, The Last Worker conveys the drudgery efficiently via early tasks ferrying packages to and fro on a hover-scooter.
Of course, the sinister ideology behind Jüngle is never far away – from the threats of sacking if you don’t deliver in time to the cringeworthy motivational sermons by the founder after whom the company is named.
Gradually, the curtain is pulled back on Jüngle’s dubious practices – Christmas stock must be incinerated once the selling season is over, for instance. Then Kurt realises there’s far more to his little robot buddy Skew than meets the eye and he’s contacted by an activist bent on taking down Jüngle.
Soon, like the behind-the-scenes revelations in Valve’s seminal Portal, Kurt escapes the warehouse floor and uncovers a whole other world in the dingy back corridors. Inevitably, what he and his two companions discover reflects very poorly on his employer.
The Last Worker then intermingles stealth and puzzles with an occasional return to delivery shifts as Kurt wrestles with his takedown of end-stage capitalism. Unfortunately, several portions of the gameplay never rise above adequate and some bits border on annoying (such as insta-fail quick-time events and a hacking mini-game that resembles a Rubik’s Cube).
What preserves The Last Worker’s playability is the compelling interaction between the three leads. Jason Isaacs stands out as Skew, a narky Scouser with a potty-mouth. Kurt’s voice actor sounds exactly like John Goodman but is rendered with downbeat charisma by Icelandic actor Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. The sparky activist is played Clare-Hope Ashitey as a combative no-nonsense go-getter.
Together with a droll but amusing script, they keep The Last Worker from sagging into rote, repetitive tasks, which is somewhat ironic given the subject material.
Perhaps the satire comes off as a tad laboured at times and you will gnaw your knuckles at some gameplay elements. But stay with the narrative and you’ll be rewarded with a story that might make you think twice when next your mouse hovers over that Buy button on a shopping website.