Last Day of June feels a bit like a hazy, strange dream that you’re unable to wake up from. Like a recurring nightmare or a fantasy that glows in a way that makes it near unforgettable. This is not your traditional puzzle game, nor is it an entirely narrative driven experience. It’s a beautiful love story that uses a gorgeous visual style and strong audio to craft a game that is imperfect but special all the same.
The story is about lovers Carl and June, when an accident on the way home from their favourite spot changes everything. Telling a tale of devotion, sorrow, lost love and consequences, Last Day of June plays like a more nuanced version of the butterfly effect, where you must find a way to change the actions of the other characters to try and save June from her fate.
What is really the beauty of the whole experience is that fate is difficult to change, and even when the course of events is altered, it’s never guaranteed to create the desired result. What follows is a puzzle adventure experience that is driven by narrative, where you must make decisions that adjust the future not too much, but just enough to know what is going wrong and how to prevent the same sad fate the next time around.
The colours in Last Day of June are a vibrant mix of purples, oranges and yellows like a never-ending sunset, and characters don’t have any facial features other than a nose and a space for where their eyes should be. They also don’t speak, other than gibberish-like mumbling. While normally I’d say that sounds a bit creepy, it fits the tone of the piece, and doesn’t take away at all from the amount of emotion that is conveyed by their expressions, animations and mumbles.
The soundtrack ebbs and flows in a way that keeps you emotionally invested in the story. Playing as different characters opens up backstories that are never told, but shown wonderfully through paintings on the wall and objects strewn about the house. A clear path of memories is laid out for those willing and interested in examining them, which made me feel even more connected to the people in their town, along with their hopes and desires.
” …there are more than enough emotional gut-punches to keep you dangling from every tenuous thread…”
Playing the same scenes over and over again to try and find the right solution can prove tedious, but thankfully Last Day of June is clever with its use of shortcuts. If it sees which path you want to take and you’ve already tried it before, a quick flash places you where you need to be. It doesn’t completely remove the repetition (as that is most of where the narrative comes from) but I was glad that it respected my time enough to give me the benefit of the doubt.
When treating this story like a traditional video game, there isn’t much else to it, other than some collectibles that do enhance some details of the little town you inhabit, but usually just feel like busy work. Regardless, there are more than enough emotional gut-punches to keep you dangling from every tenuous thread, always with hope that you can save June but with the overwhelming feeling of dread that perhaps fate has a more clear plan than we will ever understand.
The Bottom Line
Last Day of June resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect, with tears streaming down my face by its closing credits. The aura of the universe created more than makes up for a sometimes clunky game mechanic, and although the concept isn’t necessarily new, it is handled with care and finesse. It made me appreciate my loved ones; my partner, my pets, my friends and family, as any day could truly be your last. So go to your favourite places, laugh, love, live – and don’t let fate stop you.