The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck! Review – Cartoons and Cards

The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck! Review – Cartoons and Cards

Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, Steam

Game Name: The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck!

Publisher: SMART Technologies

Developer: SMART Technologies

Genre: RPG, Strategy

Release Date: February 17th, 2023

The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck! by SMART Technologies

The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck! is a tactical deck-building RPG based on the book and Netflix series The Last Kids on Earth. Combining classic turn-based RPG combat with a multi-faceted deck-building system and a catchy cartoon style inherited from its franchise roots, Hit the Deck! offers a tactical experience with difficulty options to cater to all ages and skill levels.

Extra Cards in the Deck

Hit the Deck! doesn’t bury new players with tutorials; I was pleased to find a relatively smooth introduction to the game that nonetheless provided everything I needed to know to get to grips with the card-based system. Battles play out in turns rather like a classic JRPG: player characters go, and then the AI takes its turn. The key difference is that abilities are all locked into randomly-drawn cards stored in several decks.

As a long-time fan of JRPGs, I find this combination with deck-building to be a surprising evolution, but it works rather well here. Each character has a deck of cards that can be augmented with new additions, and each level has an independent environmental deck that changes things up.

Each of the four characters also has special abilities that help to add diversity to each battle and cover the key RPG roles: a pair of damage-dealers, an inventor with buffing and de-buffing capabilities, and a tank. The card abilities themselves run the gamut across damage-dealing, buffing, hindering enemies, and healing.

The Story’s in the Cards

Between adventures, the characters return to their Tree-fortress to prepare for the next quest. Here it is possible to equip items to add cards to battle decks, upgrade key abilities, and even craft new cards for each character. Once prepared the characters can be taken on new quests to explore their town and achieve the objectives of each story mission.

Each mission is presented as a map with several locations to visit across the town. These places can be narrative moments with choices that lead to upgrades or new threats, battles, or more challenging boss fights. A quest requires that each of these locations be visited in a journey towards a final objective; the narrative of each mission tends to be laid out like an episode, sometimes focusing on one character over the others.

Cards and Cartoons

The visual style of Hit the Deck! is entrenched in the cartoon aesthetics of The Last Kids on Earth franchise, embracing the playful and upbeat tone of the story it’s based on. Short cut-scenes play out between levels that feel like moments from Saturday morning cartoons, and the overall design is excellent. I did find some of the battle animations a tad bland, but this is a relatively small quibble.

Hit the Deck! is a solid tactical deck-building RPG that dives into the cartoon world that it is based on, telling the story of the first book in the illustrated novel series. Despite the target audience of the source material, Hit the Deck! strives to provide an engaging adventure for all ages, and the variable difficulty options offer a range of challenges for players of any experience level.

Even on normal difficulty, it is quite possible to fall foul of the monstrous fiends sweeping across town, and there is sufficient depth here to keep fans of the genre engaged through its 30-plus quest campaign.

The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck! is available via Steam.

Watch the trailer for The Last Kids on Earth: Hit the Deck! below: