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The Last Guy

You have to get to know him.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Do we have a name for this genre? I can't remember. "Escort game" probably sends the wrong signal. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers - and The Last Guy, in which you dodge monsters and escort frightened civilians across satellite images of famous cities, can't be easily pigeonholed.

The satellite images - of London, San Francisco and other cities - are the basis for elaborate Pac-Man-style mazes, which are revealed when you press the X button to show navigable routes and heat signatures for clusters of sheltering refugees. Each level gives you a set amount of time to manoeuvre your character - the last guy, a tiny bundle of pixels wearing a cape - towards these buildings, trees and other shelters, whereupon their human occupants empty into the streets and form a conga line, which you then have to lead to escape zones.

The reason everyone's hiding is because the world has been invaded by some sort of zombie monster species from outer space. Said zombies kill you on contact, forcing you to restart the level, but if they touch the conga line they also send everyone behind the point of contact scurrying into a nearby building. Since the civs follow you step for step without cutting corners, this means you have to measure your movements around the cities not only to evade enemies, but to make sure the whole of the line evades them too.

With tight time limits, you can expect to be leading hundreds of them around pretty quickly, so it's an important consideration. Fortunately, you can also speed up a bit and draw the little men and women into a tight cluster around you, as long as you're prepared to expend a bit of your stamina bar. When you get close to the rescue zone, it's also possible to dart between enemies to reach it without too much fear, because refugees scamper quickly into its protective embrace as soon as you cross the threshold at the line's head.

The Last Guy is the red blob near the centre of this screenshot, and the arcing trail of rubbish behind him are his charges.

One potential problem is that the satellite maps are, well, satellite maps, and while certain borders were going to be obvious - massive concrete walls, for instance - other elements like parks full of trees and cluttered streets raise questions about what you run through and what you can't. But the X-button thermo map with its clear and shaded areas settles the question every time, and the fact you can't see zombies while holding X, and can't easily work out which buildings are empty and which are full when you're not, turns a negative into a positive.

You have to swap strategically between both maps, and certain enemy attacks and level layouts stress this further. A very narrow, tall level might be light on civilians around the escape zone where you start out, and require you to burrow down past bubonic sprawls of patrolling extra-terrestrial death to reach the humans you can only identify by examining the map. Being able to zoom in and out - and play from whatever magnification you like - enables further strategy, and as you get better you learn to handle all this without pause.