Last Day of June is the latest artistic, narrative driven, video game to make its way to gamers in 2017, so if you prefer an emotional story over hardcore gameplay, it may be a title worth investing your time into. It’s similar to What Remains of Edith Finch in terms of how narrative is given priority over gameplay, and it also deals with the emotions of love and loss. Unlike Finch though, it’s a very stylized looking game with some of the most intoxicating visuals I’ve seen this year.
The watercolor-style graphics and their warm vibrant colors evoke memories of being in an art museum with living paintings, and it’s hard to not just put your controller down to appreciate the scenery and vistas Last Day of June provides. This is a game that would greatly benefit from a picture mode, because its environments — especially during the day — are just too beautiful to keep to yourself. I also have to mention the unique style of the characters themselves, who don’t have eyes and look like Funko Pops. They’re actually not nearly as creepy as they sound, because the odd style just seems to fit the world, which again goes to show that Last Day of June’s stylized world works even with the rather depressing tone of the narrative.
This game’s visuals and art style are definitely its standout and most memorable features, but its tale and characters can also tug on your emotions thanks to the overacting plot about life, love, and the inevitable loss of those closest to us. You play as Carl and June, and must relive the same day over and over to try and figure out why it ultimately ends in tragedy. Without giving too much away you experience great loss during the prologue. The main chapters of the game are then all about reliving the same day over and over while trying to change the horrific outcome that forever altered Carl and June’s life, as well as those living in their happy little community.
At first, this mechanic feels very fresh, and it definitely works over your emotions as you struggle to find the right solutions to prevent the tragedy that befalls Carl and June. You almost feel helpless, or at least distraught knowing that no matter what you try to change you can’t get the outcome you truly want. The game is setup this way, so you have to redo most of the chapters at least twice if not more to get the correct order of events in place and the items you need to ensure the tragedy can be thwarted. This repetition, unfortunately, is where Last Day of June falters a bit.
When I first started peeling back the layers on this mystery I was highly engaged emotionally, and wanted to get to the end of the game to see a possibly happy, if not revealing ending, but the repetition just becomes too much. There is one chapter that you have to return to multiple times, and you can’t skip any of the scripted moments or cutscenes, so while you eventually make it to a point where you can try a new solution to a puzzle, you’re burnt out enough that the emotional payoff is lessened, if not removed altogether. You almost get frustrated by rewatching the same scenes play out over and over again en route to the one moment where you can try a new solution.
It also doesn’t help that you’re given almost zero clues. Your only means of figuring out how to progress are through reading the emotions of characters who don’t speak anything more than gibberish, and really don’t have faces. Surprisingly, after some times passes, you almost begin to understand what the characters are mumbling, but there are still no clear indicators on what you have to do to progress the plot along. In one regard I can appreciate this lack of direction in a narrative driven game like this, but on the other hand the frustration of not knowing what to do can also take you out of the game world, effectively lessening its emotional impact.
Last Day of June really is an intriguing title that features one of the most breathtaking and unique looking video game visual palettes around. It also has a great narrative that is full of emotion as it explores how people handle love and loss. The characters are likable too, even if they talk as if they have marbles in their mouth.
Unfortunately, the gameplay, which again is mostly QTE and exploration based, just tends to frustrate due to the built-in mandatory repetition. The idea of living out a Groundhog’s Day type of experience is solid, but it’s just not executed in a way that I would describe as fun and emotionally fulfilling. With that being said, the game does have a solid narrative if you can push yourself through the repetitive sections to reach its surprising end. For $19.99 I still think it’s a worthwhile experience that will provide you with a few hours of a rather chill gameplay experience that just so happens to look like a work of art.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided a PS4 code by the publisher for the purposes of this review.