The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom brings the family-friendly apocalyptic Netflix cartoon to consoles. But it leaves quite a lot to be desired.
Based on the animated series The Last Kids on Earth – which itself is based on a book series – The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom has some things going for it. It features some members of the original voice cast, for example, making it instantly more enjoyable for fans of the series. Its big enemy designs are also rather faithful to the series, and offer up challenging combat encounters.
But it’s unfortunately easier to pick faults with this kid-friendly action-adventure than it is to sing its praises. Its recreation of the setting of Wakefield – no, not that Wakefield – is rather bland, for example, with most streets looking identical to the one before it. It’s not a bad game to look at, though it is rather simple, and its isometric perspective is a far cry from the gorgeous, crisp animation of the series. It’s also rather glitchy – you’ll end up with blank missions on your mission list, and don’t be surprised if it crashes here and there.
Issues aside though, the core gameplay of The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom is entertaining enough. Playing as one of the series’ four main characters – Jack, June, Dirk and Quint – you’ll fight your way through endless zombies, completing various missions as you progress through the story. Each character has their own combat style and weapons, and you’ll find more (and get the opportunity to upgrade them) as you play through.
Jack and Dirk are both melee-based characters, so you’ll need to get up-close and personal to enemies to attack them. June and Quint, on the other hand, use ranged weapons, so can attack from a safe distance. June and Quint have a clear advantage in boss fights – some of which are near-impossible if you try to take on with melee characters – but some random enemies are very difficult to kill with ranged weapons. All characters should be just as capable as inflicting damage on all enemy types – especially since you can only switch characters at specific points of the map. Struggling to kill the last enemy in an area because your rockets go through it is not fun.
Along with their main weapons, each character has a special attack and can also use a summon to aid them in battle. Quint’s summon heals players, while the others all deal damage in their own way. They’re not completely useless, but they don’t exactly turn the tide of battle – not that any combat encounter is particularly difficult anyway, thanks to the amount of health drops available to you. And if you do happen to run out of health, you’ll start back moments away from where you were.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom isn’t meant to be challenging though; it’s a game aimed at younger players so fun is the order of the day. And bashing zombies is fun, at least in small bursts. It’s just a real shame that there’s no greater variety of missions here, because the five-or-so hours it will take you to reach the end of the game’s story will see you repeating the same activities again and again. You might have to fetch an item here or there, but essentially every mission boils down to: get to location X and defeat enemies.
There are plenty of side quests to engage in, significantly extending the running time of the game, though these are more of the same too: go to this location, and kill these enemies. Perhaps the most enjoyable side activity involves the car, Big Momma, and driving around to collect a series of pick-ups before the time runs out. There’s one of these in each area of the map, though you need to randomly uncover each starting point before you can engage with them.
Some concepts in the game are seriously underbaked, like the small handful of tower defence gameplay sections. You’ll need to defend your base from incoming waves of zombies by placing turrets. The game goes as far as letting you find new turrets and upgrade them, but when there are only three instances of these battles in the game, it feels wholly unnecessary. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll not even find most of the unlockable turrets until after you’ve done them all.
One definite highlight of The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom, though, is its integrated co-op play. Up to four players can join in on the same console, each taking control of one of the main characters. It makes for more frenetic gameplay, and it’s obviously a great option for kids who enjoy playing together with their siblings and friends.
Like the apocalypse itself, The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom is rather messy, and not everything works like it should. It doesn’t quite do the series justice, but there are glimmers of a fun game here. Just be prepared for some glitches, and a lot of repetitive missions. Still, for kids who are fans of the Netflix show, the use of the actual voice cast for the main characters adds some worthy authenticity.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom Review: GameSpew’s Score