LAST DAY OF JUNE
Lovely but slight indie puzzler challenges your tear ducts
Rarely is the word ‘beautiful’ so apt. This time-bending puzzler is both a gorgeous painting in motion and a romance that gets you rooting for lead couple June and Carl before the title’s even come up. The kicker is, they aren’t together for long, as a fatal car crash kills June and leaves her partner a paraplegic. Yet this melancholic story continues to allure as you head back in time to try and save her life. What follows is a Butterfly-Effect-meetsGroundhog-Day narrative, as you recreate the fateful day from the perspective of four different characters who inhabit the small village where the couple lived. The puzzling is enjoyably straightforward in both concept and execution. Taking control of a specific character, each boasting an individual mechanic that’ll help you solve environmental puzzles, you try to reshape history by changing their day. For example, getting a little boy to play with a different type of toy will alter the events leading to the car crash.
Complexity comes from the way each character’s actions affect the others. Solving a puzzle with one can open up a new area for all, although working through these permutations to find a way of avoiding the disaster is never a challenge, such is the simplicity and clarity of what you need to do, even if it involves a fair bit of back-tracking.
If there’s a problem with this, it’s that you never really feel like you’re solving anything, just moving the story forward. Granted, it’s more involving than the usual low-interactivity indie experience, but don’t come expecting Witness-levels of intelligence. Fortunately, the tale at the centre is as uncluttered (despite the dialogue being Simlish-esque sounds), and more effective because of it. Carl and June don’t need a lot of time to make an impact, and optional collectible memories you find for the villagers flesh out their own stories. They weave together to create an accessible but powerful mediation on grief.
The art design is also an unqualified success. Not only does the colourful, thematically appropriate painterly style give this a warm and lush look, but the little impressionistic touches, like the background that becomes much sharper the closer you get to it, are lovely. It’s a dreamy, hazy effect that reinforces the soft melancholy this conjures up.
Yeah, it’s all very heart-onsleeve stuff. But Last Day Of June is all the better for it, pulling off the rare trick of making a universal theme seem intensely personal. At its heart this is about the lengths we go to for love, but I can relate to the sadness in every sign where Carl heads back in time. True, there’s little systematic innovation here, and the twists in the story are easy enough to spot. But they connect so cleanly that moist eyes at the finale are well-earned.
“THE LITTLE IMPRESSIONISTIC TOUCHES REINFORCE THE SOFT MELANCHOLY.”
Simplicity and repetition may turn off those looking for a challenge, but Last Day Of June boasts a heartfelt poignancy that makes for a richly affecting experience. Ben Tyrer
Carl and June’s trip to a lake early in the game is both a bad idea and a lovely picture.
INFO FORMAT PS4 ETA 31 AUG PUB 505 GAMES DEV OVOSONICO