Let’s face it. For most of us, high school is not or was not good times. In fact, I think I’m safe in saying that most peoples’ “Last Year” in high school, whatever year that may have been, was, indeed, a nightmare. Is it wrong, then, that I feel euphoric when seeing a high school torn to shreds and scrap? Weren’t the best parts of watching Buffy centered around the frequent terrorizing and demolition of Sunnydale High? Enough about my deviant fantasies, we’re looking at an honest-to-goodness psycho-groupie assault on a bunch of teenagers in classic “B-movie” fashion. And if you’re lucky, you get to be a psycho, or rather, all three psychos. So much fun! Raise your hand if you’re not having fun and our assistant psycho will be around momentarily to change your mind by hitting it with an axe. Just kidding, he just wants to axe you why. This is our review of Elastic Games’ Last Year: The Nightmare.
LY:TN is a six-player, B-movie horror game that takes place in a random high school that is broken up into three maps, each with a different set of objectives. Five of the players take on the roles of students trying to meet the objectives in order to escape with their lives. After either picking one of five characters to play, you are also given a choice as to which role or class you think will make you most effective in the game of survival. When you die (yes, you most likely will at least one, probably more) you will have the pleasure of watching your fellows scramble around in an effort to not die until they come across your character locked behind a door. And if someone is rude enough to break your door open and leave you vulnerable to further murderous victimizations, you will little choice but to scramble around with them in the hopes of inadvertently accomplishing the objectives and hopefully stumble through to safety. Kidding. The objectives are clearly marked, all you have to do is find your way there. And not get shanked, smashed, trapped, strangled, trampled, etc… But don’t worry, you have skillz with which to delay the inevitable! For a moment, anyway. There are four roles you can choose from, but your group can only have two of any one kind in play. The roles consist of Medic, Assault, Technician, and Scout. Each class starts with a base ability and three others that a player can gain by collecting scrap from around the map. Each ability can also be upgraded by using even more scrap, so keep your eyes open! Scrap is important.
Of course, the easiest way for the group to succeed includes sticking together as much as possible, especially since group members can be saved from imminent death by timely actions from their teammates. If a Strangler has one of your buddies, you can pull them from his grasp. If a Slicer has hewn you down, a fellow group member might be able to get you back on your feet before the death blow is struck. But there is a problem with sticking together as well. The killer knows your plans. Of course, he does, he’s psycho. He can also see the nice objective markers as well as you. While you’re running in a pack, the killer can be busy setting up traps and ambushes at strategic points. Also, running around in a group usually results in a mad scramble for scrap. Now, groupies can disarm the killers’ traps, but it takes time. Traps can also be “tip-toed” through by crouch walking over them. Also time-consuming, but it’s that or sitting there with your leg stuck in a bear trap, not to mention the damage it does to you.
The sixth player, chosen at random, gets to be one of three psychos, each with different strengths and methods for mutilation and murder. Don’t worry, psychos. Just like in the movies you don’t really die. If, as a psycho, you are incapacitated, you have the pleasure of coming back to life as one of the other two psychos. The choice of alleged mentally unstable murderers includes the Tank (big, brawny, and heavy is slow but powerful with a charge attack that hits your victim like a freight train), the Strangler (kookie, cackling, sneaky guy with a long chain that he uses to snare his victims, or uses vents to sneak attack them and pull their feet out from under them), and the Slasher (not as big as the giant, but is extremely handy with an axe and likes to jump through skylights). Aside from their individual talents and preferences, all the psychos have the predator ability, which allows them to become intangible and move through the map very quickly. One of the drawbacks to this is that you can’t attack while using this ability, and you also can’t come out of predator mode if you are within sight of one of the other players. But that’s not going to stop you, right?!
As someone who doesn’t bother with horror games, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this one. The objective-based gameplay and “B-movie” gave it a feel very similar to the Left For Dead games (minus hordes of zombies), which is definitely not a bad thing. Being able to chat with the rest of your group and laugh at your mistakes and death, or just shoot the breeze with the killer (yes, they are a part of your group) made the game fairly enjoyable. Playing as the killer was almost as spooky for me as it was my victims, and that added to the fun. Honestly, I haven’t yet mastered all the killers’ skills and options but am looking forward to trying. While there were some bugs and lag issues, the three map variations becoming arduously repetitive, and sometimes the wait in the lobby was pretty excessive, I found that they merely added to the fun as people would randomly find themselves trapped in walls and things of the sort. Sure, these issues definitely need to be fixed, but it’s not going to stop me from laughing at you when it happens to you.
Playing the game, however, got me to thinking. What if we have it all wrong? What if the “psychos” are really the heroes? Think about it for a second. The technician class can build a turret from scrap. What high school kid do you know that can do that? Or a landmine? The Scout’s stun gun? What if the kids are really invading alien bodysnatchers? They seem to have some kind of mind link and can see where the other members of their group are through walls. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that’s not normal! I’m thinking the aliens started snatching bodies and taking over the school and were about to make their way into town, but the three ex-special forces janitors realized what was happening and, once again, used their various respective skill sets to combat the wave of alien invaders. Heroes, they are! Yeah, that’s most likely not the case, but whatever.
Overall, the game was enjoyable and challenging whether you were one of the kids or the psychos. This is definitely a good game to play with friends; but if you don’t have any of those, the quick match option will get you into the action in no time. Enjoy!