Revolving around the tragic premise of escaping the cruel hands of fate, Last Day of June is a short indie production from developers Ovosonico and publisher 505 Games. Set in a small idyllic township, the tale centres around Carl, who by unfortunate happenstance is involved in a tragic car accident that leaves him bereft of the love of his life, the titular June. By reliving and manipulating the memories and subtle circumstances leading up to the fatal crash, Carl attempts to change the past and be reunited with his love.
The first thing you’ll likely notice about Last Day of June is its striking art style, which looks for all intents and purposes looks like a moving water colour painting. Redolent of Van Gogh’s happier works, the art style really is a thing of beauty, and for most of the game when you’re reliving the past you’ll be virtually assaulted by the game’s vivid colours and strong lighting. This is contrasted nicely with Carl’s current world, which without June is drained of colour and light and haunted by the spectres of the tragic past.
Gameplay-wise it’s fairly basic, with relatively gentle puzzles centring around manipulating the events prior to the tragedy and seeing how they eventually play out and whether the machinations of fate can be halted. You take on the role of each of the townsfolk involved in the accident and play out the events of their day, and once you’re done you sit back and watch the consequences of your work. There’s a butterfly effect style flow to the game, whereby an act as simple as having a young child fly a kite with an old man rather than playing ball with the local dog can have profound consequences later on down the line. While I generally appreciated these puzzles, and the way things interplayed was sometimes interesting, it can become a fairly draining experience to have to live through the same final event over and over, with no option to skip the replay of the all but inevitable tragedy.
Given its short nature and relatively simple puzzles, where Last Day in June tries to focus its energy is on generating a feeling of empathy with the characters. Call me heartless, but it unfortunately failed to resonate with me. The main reason for this is most likely the non-verbal gibberish that the characters spout instead of words when communicating (think the Sims and you’re not far off), which from the outset really grated on my nerves. It’s functional enough at conveying how the characters feel, but with the way the characters articulate it’s almost like trying to get emotionally attached to an episode of Pingu. What should be deep and mature ends up feeling oddly childish, and the make-or-break connection to the lovers’ plight is lost in the process. There are some poignant moments most certainly, but compared to a game like What Remains of Edith Finch it just doesn’t punch your soul in the face like it should.
It bears mentioning that elsewhere the sound design is excellent, with a score based around the work of prog rock heavyweight Steven Wilson. It’s clear that a lot of love went into marrying the visuals and with the score, and the devs have most certainly done a commendable job in that department.
Remember the fallen
There are some poignant moments most certainly, but compared to a game like What Remains of Edith Finch it just doesn’t punch your soul in the face like it should.
Last Day of June is a visually stunning game that dallies with some interesting gameplay design, but for this reviewer at least the emotional aspect of the tale just didn’t break through. Your enjoyment of the title will be directly proportional to how much you can connect with the two main characters, but if people talking in nonsensical jibber jabber is likely to hinder that then you might be in trouble. It’s certainly not a game to be dismissed outright, but maybe check out a gameplay snippet so you know what you’re getting into.
Reviewed on PS4