PAX EAST 2023 | "The Last Worker"
Where do video games draw the line between fantasy and reality? How do they tackle this subject of “necessary evil”? When do they allow us to witness a great issue in modern society, while at the same time not shake us in a panic over it? Oiffy, Wolf & Wood Interactive’s The Last Worker is a great example of balancing video game escape with thought-provoking commentary on our current world.
The PAX East demo I went hands-on with was the game’s opening tutorial. However, before it even began, I was treated with a little back story about The Last Worker himself: Kurt. It’s clear that he’s the only human left working at Jüngle (guess what that’s supposed to be a placeholder for!). On top of that, it appears that he still thinks dearly of the one that got away, as evident by a photo on his console’s side. However, we’re not allowed to reminisce too much about our past; we’ve got work to do.
Alas, your robot helper Skew is on the fritz, and is thinking that you’re a new employee (despite being there for 9000+ days). As such, Kurt is forced to learn how to do everything all over again. You grab packages, send the good ones to delivery, and label the damaged ones before shooting them to recycling. It’s a mundane job, but from a gaming perspective, it’s kind of therapeutic.
However, Jüngle puts Kurt in a tizzy after they make him do a wild exercise. It reaches a point where it looks like his perfect boxing record is about to be tarnished. Thankfully, this is also just a test to see how one deals with stressful situations, and Kurt “passes”. This is when Skew comes back to its senses, reverting back to its cuss-heavy vernacular. It goes to show that even robots can’t handle the daily grind at times.
There’s a lot of great potential to be found in The Last Worker. It’s got humor, but under Kurt’s gruff voice is a mountain of sadness. One hopes that his back story can be fully revealed, and that his time at Jüngle will end on a positive note. But knowing how many jobs like this tend to be, there’s a chance that the light on the other side might just be another area to pack boxes in.
The Last Worker is now available. See for yourself if you can handle being the lone person working in a semi-automated system!