The Last Friend is one part tower defense, one part beat’em up, blended to perfection.
The plot involves a post apocalyptic future where doggos are sought after by lunatics, marauders, and other eccentric sorts. Being a dog lover, our protagonist drives around the wasteland in his trailer (the “woof woof wagon”), attempting to rescue any dogs he comes across.
Each level featured multiple lanes. Our hero’s trailer is on the left side of the level, and baddies approach from the right, usually sticking to a single lane. It’s up to you to stop them from wrecking the trailer and getting to the doggos.
If you’ve ever played a 90’s era beat’em up, then you’ll pick up on the combat fairly quickly. You have a light and heavy attack, which can be combined into different combos. Using a heavy attack generally ends the combo string with a single powerful hit, playing a different animation depending on how many light attacks preceded the finisher. The protagonist moves fairly quickly, whereas the baddies move slowly, making it easy to move around them. Aside from strikes, you can also throw smaller enemies, moving them back down the lane. Overall, smacking fools felt great.
In addition to the normal attacks, you also have special attacks. Each special attack depletes part of a stamina bar (SP), which slowly recovers over time. I saw a mega uppercut which knocked enemies up into the air, and a stomp attack that knocked foes back. These were useful for dealing with large crowds of enemies in a lane.
Turrets and other defense can be built with scrap, which is dropped by enemies. The demo showcased a wall, a gun turret, and a battery. Some defenses, like the gun turret, require power cells to operate, which are blueish squares on the ground. You only have three power cells initially, but building batteries adds more power cells, allowing you to place more turrets. Enemies will attack your defenses, so you generally want to place walls infront of the turrets. This portion of the game gave off strong Plans vs. Zombies vibes.
At the start of the levels in the demo, I only had enough scrap to build two towers initially. Leaving defense of that third lane up to my fists. This demonstrates how the two genres mix, as I could either try to defeat the enemies in that lane myself, or throw the enemies to a different lane and let the turrets handle them.
Progressing through the game unlocks more defenses, as well as more dogs! Each dog provides a passive benefit, such as increasing turret damage, or adding a passive healing effect to all of your defenses. In speaking with the developer, there are 20+ dogs, each providing a benefit to either the beat’em up or tower defense portions of the game. In a cute twist, you get to name the dogs as you collect them, as if you’re actually rescuing and keeping them.
I loved my short time with The Last Friend. The main game loop was satisfying, the cartoonish style is pleasing, and the dog rescue aspect put a smile on my face. I highly recommend checking this out once released.
The Last Friend will release on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. You can check out Stonebot Studio’s website now and back the game, which includes a copy of The Last Friend and some other perks. For example, you can have a picture of your dog (or other pet) added to the credits.