Also On: PC
Publisher: 505 Games
I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I say that Last Day of June is achingly sad. I mean, just watch the trailer. Between its music, its visuals, and its overall vibe, I think it gives you a pretty clear idea of what to expect going in.
And if the trailer doesn’t do it, the premise will: you’re trying to unlock the sequence of events that will save the titular June’s life. So going in, you already know that the death of a loved one is on the table.
Even knowing all that, however, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the emotional gutpunch that is this game. It starts from the get-go, when a day at the seaside turns tragic, and doesn’t let up until the very final heartbreaking moments. I don’t want to say too much about what happens, since it’s the kind of thing that’s best left for each player to uncover, but I will say that I can’t think of many — or any — games that deal with grief and anger and frustration the way that Last Day of June does.
The game is built around June’s widower, Carl, reliving that last day over and over again. No matter how things play out differently — whether you’re able to make it so that a child doesn’t run into a street after his ball, or so that a woman’s moving boxes don’t go flying off her truck, or so that loose rocks don’t go cascading onto the street — the end result is always the same: Carl is always alone in a dark, empty house, getting more and more grief-stricken with every scenario.
This may not sound like a set-up that lends itself to a compelling game, but Last Day of June finds a way, playing as a mix between a walking simulator and an adventure game. Carl will look at one of June’s paintings, and then the point of view shifts to one of the other four characters in their little village, as they go through the fateful day. It’s an interesting way of letting you look inside their heads, and it also allows you to gradually explore more and more of the village.
Admittedly, at times it can feel a little Groundhog Day-ish, as you go through the same sequence of events over and over again, with only small variations revealing themselves each time. But that’s okay, as far as I’m concerned: each variation reveals a new layer for the town and its characters, and each reveal makes both a little more interesting each time.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Last Day of June’s art. Specifically: it’s gorgeous. The game’s characters all look like eyeless stop-motion animation dolls, which you’d think would be creepy, but the way the game tells their stories and has them interact, you get past that pretty quickly. Add in the orange and purple tinges all over the place, and you can see the way the game balances its warm nostalgia and its creeping sadness, even in the visuals.
Really, that balance of sadness and nostalgia captures what Last Day of June is all about. You’ll come away from it feeling a little heartbroken, but sometimes that’s what great art does to you — and make no mistake, this is some pretty exceptional art.
Note: 505 Games provided us with a Last Day of June PS4 code for review purposes.