The Last Kids On Earth and the Staff of Doom
Is ‘OG’ The New ‘LJN’?
During my unboxing of The Last Kids On Earth and the Staff of Doom, I outright said that publisher Outright Games is shaping up to be the “modern-day LJN” which, for those who are AVGN savvy, is not a great comparison to make.
LJN, for those unaware, was a video game developer that was the subject of ire throughout much of the 80s and 90s, known for their very lackluster titles which were nothing more than tie-ins for licensed products usually. Comparing any company to LJN is a sign of bad things to come, but as Outright Games is a publisher and not a developer, it may not be fair to shift all the blame on the company.
I could still be bitter about my last outing with the game, the Spirit Lucky’s Big Adventure one, with its abysmal load times and lack of any direction to think of. However, I know better than anyone that some tie-in titles aren’t bad at all so long as you think of the game with its core audience in mind.
The Last Saving Grace On Earth
A prime example of this, no pun intended, was Transformers Battlegrounds, another published title from Outright Games that was a surprisingly decent RTS game meant for kids new to the genre.
With The Last Kids On Earth and the Staff of Doom, thankfully this title falls under the latter than the former. The Staff of Doom was developed by Stage Clear Studios, a Spanish indie studio known for their impressive Cloudpunk and revival of the Alex Kidd series, meaning that SoD was going to be in good hands. For the most part, it is, although it is a safe game which doesn’t make it a bad one.
The Last Kids On Earth - A Simple Yet Surprisingly In-Depth Adventure
After an introduction filled with exposition introducing the city of Wakefield, the protagonist Jack, and his friends, you get to select four characters. The main character, Jack, plays like a typical swordsman with a “grenade” attack (that’s more a special attack with ammo than anything) in the form of a boomerang, attacking enemies twice. June is the ranged “archer” type, using a hand cannon for ranged purposes and an area-of-effect gas bomb as her special weapon. Quint is another ranged player with an actual cannon and a mine, with Dirk being the brute, attacking with a hockey stick and having an ice grenade that slows enemies down.
Each player controls different enough from the last, with the gameplay reminiscent of top-down beat-em-ups like Gauntlet, Diablo, and, to a lesser extent, the Battle Axe game I recently covered. The graphics are simple and colorful, meant to emulate the source material quite well. This game was based on a children’s book series, which eventually got a Netflix animation adaptation as well.
The Last Kids On Earth, Bowl Of Cereal, And Saturday Mornings
While the story is cheesy “Saturday morning” cartoon tier and the graphics reflect this, the gameplay and controls are surprisingly solid. You have a basic attack that’s either ranged or melee depending on your character, with a charged attack meant to take down waves of enemies at once. Players can dodge out of harm’s way which is useful considering enemies will swarm the player, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming as dodging not only causes the player to become invulnerable but there’s also an ample amount of health and ammo pick-ups to counteract any damage dealt to the player.
The biggest detail that this game adds that most AAA titles don’t even include is a decent targeting system. In most games, while you can lock on to an enemy, you have to aim in the general direction to make sure your attacks land and ensure you don’t break the line of sight. In this game, locking on to enemies means your line of sight is never broken until the enemy is either defeated or you let go of the targeting button.
The Last Kids On Earth Does Diablo Better Than Diablo
This means that attacking enemies never feel like a chore, just lock on, move around if needed, and attack confidently. This is a feature I wish most games created by bigger developers would implement as it saves the headache of ensuring my precious bombs or attacks hit the opponent.
The game is relatively open-world, with players gaining access to a car to traverse longer distances. The player has a base of operations that must be defended at regular intervals via a “tower defense” style mode. Due to the open world, players can explore the surrounding city, hoping to obtain collectibles as well as bonus currency to upgrade weapons, items, and bases. There’s a surprising depth, but not enough to deviate a young player from mindlessly hacking away at zombies.
Grind, Grind, and Grind Some More...
For everyone else used to this genre, this game will feel repetitive after a while and it’s something meant to be played in short bursts. Even towards the end of the first hour of the playthrough, I felt my attention span draining. The characters are highly two-dimensional and some, like Quint, were outright annoying to the point when I’d play a character who I felt was the least annoying instead of considering their abilities.
Overall, this is a game that young children will enjoy and the ability to play a four-player local co-op means the entire family can get involved. I’m sure even among friend groups this game would be a cheap fun experience solely for the multiplayer alone. Just be mindful that the course of the game is mainly “go here, talk to NPCs, fight enemy waves,” rinse and repeat. The Last Kids On Earth is not a bad outing by Outright Games should players be mindful of these nuances.
The Last Kids On Earth and the Staff of Doom is now available on the PC, Switch, Xbox One, and PS4