Look, I'll admit it. I'm a dog person. I love them. All of them. If you have a dog, I will pet it. I will rub it's belly. I will play fetch, and tug-o-war, and all that cutesy dog stuff. Do I have one? No. Will I get one? Also no. But I love yours. I also loved a older game called Plants VS Zombies, and it was my very first foray into the tower defense genre. If you don't know what Plants VS Zombies is, that's ok (but you are either five years old or you live under a rock). I'll let you look it up on your own time. You know what else I love? Beat 'em ups! Games like Streets of Rage, and Final Fight. Tearing through endless enemies with 2 button combos and special attacks, and then getting whooped on by a very unforgiving boss in arcades represents a good chunk of my life in video games. How a game took all that, and jammed it into one game - very mysterious. It seemed like it was going to be too much. When we received The Last Friend courtesy of Stonebot Studios, Ludas Games, and Skystone Games for the Nintendo Switch, I discovered a game that was well deserved of all the accolades it's received from it's 2019 Steam release.
The Last Friend's setting is a post-apocalyptic world, and while chaos, destruction, and survival is constant, a new problem is afoot. "The World's Doggos are missing!" You meet a protagonist named Alpha, and he has his fellow dog T. Juan (Like Tijuana, I think), and they set out to figure out what is going on. Why in the midst of all the new world's problems are the dogs coming up missing? Alpha and T. Juan don't care who they face, they're going to tear through everyone, and everything, to make things right. Then the game begins. It starts to take you through a tutorial. Your characters drive an RV, and your mission in most levels is clear cut: Protect the RV, and rescue the dog at the end. You start off with three lanes. You can move left, right, up, and down. You cannot jump. You also have a light attack, a strong attack, and a grab/throw button. Eventually, you will expand your fighters' prowess, upgrading through special missions. You get a counter attack, a shoulder rush, and more.
You then are taught how to build turrets. In this first level, you can use T. Juan, the dog, to build the scrap gun. The scrap gun will shoot at oncoming enemies. You are then taught that enemies drop scraps, which is the cost to build these turrets. For starters, it's 100 scraps to build a turret, and you have three horizontal lanes. If you want to build 3 turrets on all three lanes, it'll cost you 300 scrap. If you want to build 3 turrets on one lane, which you can do, same price. However, that leaves your RV open for the enemies to attack, and your job is to protect the RV. The game makes it clear that you can't build without scrap. So what do you have to do to get scrap? Scrap! As enemies come in, the turrets automatically start firing, but you can go wallop on those fools right out the gate. Once you get more scrap you can build more turrets, and do less running around to beat the enemy up. Remember this as the game progresses. It makes it 100 times easier. Note that if you put a turret in the wrong place, you can recycle it for a portion of some scrap.
The enemies come in waves. Once the wave is complete, you get about a 10 second breather to build up more turrets, extractors, and defense pods, the latter appearing later in the game. You can skip this breather if you're all set, and the quicker you're ready, the more bonus scrap you get. After you finish the tutorial wave, you rescue your first dog, which is a Pumi. He can extract scrap from the ground for you, and you can even rename the cute little scamp. The world then opens up, and it kind of has a Super Mario 3 feel to it. Your first real level then opens up your team-up screen. This screen shows you everything you need to know. Every dog you rescue throughout the game does something different for you. You will get dogs that shoot fire, or get dogs that shoot water that slow the enemy down. This screen also tells you through a cool animation what each dog does, so you're not confused in the slightest. Also note, that starting out, you can only team up with 5 dogs, and T. Juan, the lil rascal, can not be taken out. He even tells you that you're stuck with your little chihuahua friend. On the far right of this prep screen, it tells you what type of mission it is, and what you need to do to get stars on the level. You beat the level, you rescue the dog, but if you beat the level under certain conditions, you get stars as well. More on that later.
Now the fun begins, but the game warns you of something that you need to pay very close attention to. Everything has a life meter. The turrets, the RV, and Alpha (you). The turrets in the beginning can take about 2-3 attacks before they're wiped off the screen, leaving your RV open. If the RV containing all the dogs you rescued loses its energy bar, the mission is a failure. If you get smacked around, you fail the mission. It's very wise to build up extractors near the RV, so they can start producing scrap during that first countdown. The next dog you rescue will be a German Shepard, which allows you to build walls, and a Newfoundland after that. The Newfoundland is your first Skill Dog. This one in particular heals the turret you're closest to. Eventually more pups will be able to give you new moves, or more powerful buffs like extra HP, or stamina for special moves. The skill dogs count against your slots, too.
You progress further through the game, and you see yourself collecting doggie biscuits. These are used by a character called Lupe. Lupe will use the doggie biscuits you collect to level up your canine army. For instance, you can level up T. Juan's scrap gun to cause more damage, or even shoot all three horizontal lanes. The first upgrade for each dog costs you 15, and the second upgrade costs 40. Now this doesn't mean that if you build a turret to level three, it's not until you upgrade during play do you reap the benefits. If a scrap gun costs 100 scrap to build, it's another 90 to upgrade it to level 2, and another amount to go to level 3. You can upgrade your skill dogs, and later your SUPER DOGS! Super Dogs let you use a powerful technique once a super meter has filled all the way up. It's best you spread the wealth too. Once you get your core group down, you'll be setting your defenses up in no time at all. There is also a camp you can access at anytime, which shows you all the dogs you've rescued, a fast track system, and the ability to upgrade your RV via the stars we mentioned earlier. You have the ability to add a shield to your RV, receive more initial scrap and more. Again, you want to kind of build evenly here. You'll be pretty pleased with the results in the long run. If you aren't happy with the way your RV is upgraded, you can reset those upgrades as well.
There are several different types of stages within four total lands. Defense Missions, which I've explained above, are the majority. There are also straight beat 'em up missions, where you will build no turrets, or receive any scrap. These require all skill dogs to fill the slots available to you. Use the right ones to win quick and easy. The poodle increases your hit points, and the Jack Russell Terrier increases the amount of stamina, so you can use those super moves at your leisure. There are 24 skill dogs, and you "gotta pet 'em all"! There are 6 Super dogs too, and you can take one with you. These beat em up stages could be destroying obstacles, or avoiding search lights, but they always end with a rescue. You will also encounter a character named Wolf, who is also here to give you new moves and upgrade your character when you complete his trials. There are also characters who have bonus doggos, but only if you complete their stages with their preset rollout of dogs. You are set with these, and the only one you can change is the Super Dog. The upgrade system for Alpha, the RV, and the furry friends are plentiful and very easily accessed if you do your very best in every stage. Also, the last level in each world has a mini boss, and a boss. And they are no joke. They are always beat 'em up missions, with the exception of the final boss of the final level. You are rewarded with a nice amount of doggie biscuits, as well as an extra slot for your load out.
At first, I thought that The Last Friend was pretty easy going. Build the extractors, turrets and walls, and go out there and beat down some dog stealing punks. The game shows you very soon that it is not as easy as it looks. All the enemies have different ways to destroy dog-kind. There's a robot on wheels that tries to ride through and decimate the entire lane of turrets. There are enemies that morph into bigger and badder ones. Ones that can defeat you in one punch if you're trying to be the big dog. The boss patterns are sporadic, yes, you should learn, and use every move at your disposal. The counter is my favorite, so use it wisely. I can't say I beat the game quickly, but I can say it took me longer than I first expected, if that makes any sense. There's also a collection, which has stickers of the dogs you acquired. It looked like you get them from using the dogs in 10 missions. At the time of writing, I have 14, for once I found my core group, I was rescuing dogs like a tail wag. Left and right. There are also achievements, or medals in the game, which earn you extra dog biscuits. Finally, the collection shows you the hall of fame, which looks to be the dogs of the backers of the game, maybe. It's cute though. Really really cute. The game has three save spots. and the options are pretty cool. You can turn off indicators like lane outlines, and you can skip the cutscenes. (Which I wouldn't). You can change the audio and the controls as well. I'm definitely looking up speed runs after I post this article, because there's gotta be some pretty cool times out there. Not a lot of replay value, because once you've done everything, you've literally done everything.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming!View Profile