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Review: The Last Friend is a lovely tail of RV defense, nutballs and dogs

Tower defense games are a dime a dozen with a familiar set up. Maps stretch out before you as far as the eye can see. In the distance, enemies are approaching. Be they many, or few, they all have one goal in mind: to wreck your day. You, the commanding so and so, must figure out a way to keep the waves of ridiculously over, or sometimes underpowered, forces at bay. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a formula that works well, if not a bit monotonous. And dear goodness me, can they be difficult. The Last Friend is certainly no walk in the dog park, but that’s not what gives the game it’s adorable charm. It’s quite simply the puppers.

From the open cutscene, it’s easy to see the care and style that makes The Last Friend unique. Imagine if Mad Max or Furiosa has a few canine companions along for the ride, and Max didn’t, you know, eat them. And let’s add in a wise cracking chihuahua in a robo suit, (I dare you to not hear George Lopez’s voice,) and you have a Molotov cocktail of explosive fun.

The Last Friend takes a few pages out of games before it, such as Babel, in adding rich colors and fantastic, yet simple graphics to draw you in. Each scene has a flavor that is often lacking from basic tower defense or brawler games, which is part of the very description of the game. And doggone it if they aren’t right!

Indie developer studios The Stonebot Studio and Ludus Games, along with publisher Skystone Games Inc. have had a banner year of successful games. From the horror adventure Undying to upcoming Spacelines from the Far Out: Flight School, all of the teams involved make sure their games contain one thing in common- heart. The Last Friend is no exception.

Released last year for PC, it has found a new doghouse on the Nintendo Switch.

Extreme RVing is extreme

At its core, the game tells the tale of a man and his dog. Caught in a post-apocalyptic world where the baddies are crazy and the dogs can talk, Alpha, a man of few words and a lot of action is our hero. Big and burly, with striking fiery hair and fists of fury, he befriends the sassy and sometimes annoying smart-ass chihuahua T. Juan (I know, where’s the ‘ya?’). T.Juan is somehow in possession of far out technology, such as a robo-turret suit. Their mission: to boldly go where no RV has before!

This is no Hunger Games dystopian world, but rather a place more suited for the aforementioned Mad Max and crew. What happened to the world that brought about the desolated wastelands and tangled jungles our heroes fight their way through remains a mystery.

Perhaps this isn’t even Earth, but another dimension. In fact, there are areas and foes who resemble baddies from the Borderland series. It matters not as Alpha and T. Juan travel from area to area across the expanding stages and levels.

Starting off with the basics, The Last Friend gives you a quick tutorial, complete with T. Juan’s lovely, *cough grouchy* and encouraging pointers, we and Alpha are told how to begin setting up our defenses. There are two main goals per level, although others are added as gameplay and difficulty increases. One: protect the RV. This can be done a variety of ways.

One man’s scrap is another’s turret

Turrets are the simplest way to create a protective barrier. And so we start there. Each function costs a certain amount of scrap pieces. We have 200 to set up our first defense, and as turrets cost 100 a piece, we can only create two. Mind you, we must protect three lanes of attack that our foes will come trotting down. T. Juan makes sure Alpha knows he sucked during last battle at sufficiently protecting the RV, which admittedly is pretty sweet. Our mouthy little pup pops himself into the bright yellow turrets and away we go.

The first wave of enemies is extremely easy to dispatch with Alpha’s fists and powerful kicks. Granted, they do not have much protection running around in their boxers and a happy face bandana mask. Tell me, guys, would you wear that to a dog fight? Didn’t think so. However, although they are weak and silly, they are plentiful. And if they make it past our line of chihuahuas, they can deal direct damage to the RV. Once the RV takes too many hits, it’s automatic game over for that stage.

Puppies everywhere!

If victorious, we hit upon our second objective: Alpha can free the doggo waiting in a cage at the edge of the stage. The first new friend to join the pack is a Pumi. Each dog freed has special abilities that appear to be based on their breed. Pumiks, for example, are known for being energetic hard workers. Our Pumi is an extractor and as a part of the lineup, will continue to dig up scrap metal during each fight. Having access scrap available enables Alpha to build, upgrade and repair each turret even during a wave.

There are 12 turret dogs and 24 skill dogs. Skill dogs also have their own set of useful powers. The third dog Alpha rescues is a Newfoundland. This pretty puppy can be added to the team as a secondary unit. Standing next to any of the turrets while Newf is active allows that turret to heal, increasing the time it spends on the field. The Dalmation adds water to the field, slowing down foes. It sounds easy, but if you’ve played tower defense games before, you know that’s a false hope.

It wasn’t long before the enemies took on new powers, like the firebombs or gas hogs. Deadly in their own right, Alpha does get a doggo that can counteract the harmful effects of his foes. And the dogs are only too happy to tell you when the battle seems to be heading south. If a turret or the RV takes too much damage, they begin to bark. I’m not much of a dog person, so I found the barking to be more distracting than helpful. However, it is a clever warning system.

Understanding which dogs are best for which enemy early on is essential for later levels, when the screen is overwhelmed with bad guys and I’m praying to the video game gods I have the right combinations. News flash, it is a learning process. The first boss man ganked me repeatedly before I figured out I had set some of my turrets too far away and had too few of others.

Hidden gems in a campfire

Mini puzzlers also added a depth to the game I didn’t expect and required me to switch gears, sometimes completing sequencing or quick time events. While some may feel that these puzzles break the flow of the game’s main mechanic, I found them enjoyable.

Camping opens up fairly early in the first level. Completely essential as a place to look over the Workshop and available upgrades to the RV, the campsite is also just a pretty place to chill.  The puppers stretch out around the campfire, and the whole scene takes on a homey feel. It also affords Alpha the chance to show his canine companions some affection. Yes, you can pet the puppies. Satisfaction has reached a 10!

Part of the journey is the trip. It’s what makes games like Bethesda’s titles and The Witcher franchise worth coming back to. Characters that live and breathe pure quirkiness, whether good or bad, add flavor to any game. The Last Friend has a cast of characters that are as wacky as they are useful. Each time Alpha and his pack complete a mission, their RV moves through the map.

At times, this means his path crosses with other humans. Lonewolf, looking like a cyberpunk version of Fairy Tail’s Gajeel Redfox, offers Alpha ways to increase his basic stats and can be found throughout the maps.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one

Not to be overlooked is the cutscene during critical moments in the game. We are gifted with beautiful animation and witty dialogue. I found myself laughing on several occasions by the “bros” or the “Boss” Legit, an influencer who just wants to make good salsa. Dude, I totally sympathize. Pass me the chips and let’s talk! Deciding that violence isn’t always the answer, Alpha and T. Juan show that they really are the good boys here.

And as always, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the music. From the opening scene to the end of each battle, the music is outstanding. Each boss has their own theme, carefully composed to fit their personality. Even just the simple “yay you won” bit is a great listen. If you’re interested in The Last Friend soundtrack, it is available on Steam as a separate purchase. I highly recommend you taking a listen, and just go with the vibes.

The only drawback I found is the lack of accessibility features. In the options, players can toggle several things on or off. These include grids, lanes, positions, and damage. As the levels get increasingly harder, at times, I found my reflexes were not able to keep up, and on the smaller screen of the Switch, at times the writing was difficult to see when choosing my team and what their abilities were. Moving forward, I would suggest that the developers perhaps look into adding font sizing, and a difficulty adjustment. I might hear backlash from such a suggestion, but hey, I just want to game like everyone else.

It is two player enabled, and while I didn’t try that feature out, I would love to team up with anyone who wants to give it a go. For being a title under $20, it takes quite a bit of time to get through. At the time of this review, I have reached about halfway and spent over 10 hours.

Dig this hidden gem

All in all, The Last Friend has an engaging story, beautiful art style, hilarious characters and so many dogs that any puppy lover will be overjoyed. The music is stellar, worth listening to on its own. And the heart of the game shines through despite its difficulty. The Stonebot Studio, Ludus Games and Skystone Games Inc. truly have a hidden gem on their hands.

5 out of 5 bones




All in all, The Last Friend has an engaging story, beautiful art style, hilarious characters and so many dogs that any puppy lover will be overjoyed. The music is stellar, worth listening to on its own. And the heart of the game shines through despite its difficulty. The Stonebot Studio, Ludus Games and Skystone Games Inc. truly have a hidden gem on their hands.

User Rating: 4.55 ( 1 votes)

Alicia Graves

A bit nerdy, a bit punk rock princess, and a whole lot of mom, I'm constantly in motion. I have an enthusiasm for gaming and the cultural complexities of entertainment, both past and present. I don’t believe in limiting myself to one kind of genre in books, comics, manga, anime, music or movies. I prefer to seek out hidden gems in panned pieces, uniqueness in the mundane and new outlooks on nuances.
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