It being Autumn, the spookiest of all the seasons, my fiancé and I recently had a conversation about our opinions on clowns, ghosts, and the various spooky trappings of the season. It didn’t take long for us to establish that most of the standard ghoulies didn’t concern us much, aside from dolls. Dolls, we agreed, are just plain freaky, noting that their eyes were especially concerning—especially when those eyes are no longer present. I mention this because Last Day of June adopts a very noticeable art style throughout its entirety: big headed, childlike figures devoid of facial features, with big empty eye sockets. It should be noted that Last Day of June is NOT a horror game.
I have to wonder if a different art style would have changed my experience with Last Day of June. It tells the emotional story of a man who has lost everything who is delving through his memories and wondering what he could have done to preserve his previously idyllic life. I wonder if less concerning visuals would have made me care more about any of the characters or the world they inhabit, but honestly, I don’t think it would have changed a thing.
Last Day of June plays like a simple adventure game. Characters can pick up one item and use it to solve puzzles or open new paths, like the worst Metroidvania style game. This and some light time travel are the primary mechanics at play here. Don’t expect any overly creative or interesting solutions to puzzles, and soon after the player thinks they have achieved their goal, additional obstacles will present themselves in a manner that seems a bit too neat, effectively ruining any story progress you feel that you have made.
This is a game that wants to tell the player a story, and make them feel something. It’s a noble goal, and one becoming more and more common in the gaming space. The desire for genuine, emotional storytelling is great, and I fully support the idea the games should make us feel things, whether it be crushing despair, unbridled joy, or anything in between—but I don’t feel like Last Day of June earns any of the emotional threads it tries to pull on.
The problem here is twofold. First of all, are the stylistic problems; Last Day of June tells its story wordlessly. When two characters talk, they speak in this muddled gibberish, similar to the distinctive way characters in The Sims discuss mountains and soccer balls, and it’s just as informative. Just like in that title, characters here have to rely on over the top gestures and extreme inflections to communicate anything to the player and they come off, just like those blank, eyeless faces, unnatural and empty.
More importantly, I think Last Day of June has a real pacing problem. The player is given one scene before the inciting incident to get a feel for these characters before I’m asked to feel for them. You could say the same about the side characters as well. I don’t care about the kid that no one wants to play with; I just wish he’d stop playing in traffic. We see additional scenes from the characters’ pasts in illuminated still imagines, but it’s too little too late to invest me to the level that this game wants. Last Day of June rushes when it should take its time and it languishes uncomfortably in the moments that feel the least important. I’d love to actually know these characters despite their horrifying nightmare faces.
One final gripe I have concerns the overall message of the game. If any moral or message is to be derived from Last Day of June, it’s not a good one. The protagonist deals with tragedy by wallowing in his own despair and refusing to move forward. He is given hope that he can change the past and charges forward. The idea that once tragedy occurs our lives are over and that there is no moving forward feels too fatalistic and cynical, even for me.
Last Day of June is a game that plays at a deep emotional experience, but falls short. It clumsily stumbles artistically and winds up needlessly dark in some important ways. If you’re looking for an adventure game that will provoke honest, earnest feelings, there are much better examples, but at least this one tried.
Last Day of June was reviewed using “retail” Steam download codes provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.
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