I don’t often play games that grip me emotionally the way others do. I can remember being so shocked by the beginning of The Last of Us that I had to put the controller down and compose myself for a few minutes before I was able to move on and get further into the game. When a game has the power to bring tears to my eyes I consider it a powerful statement and Last Day of June did just that.
The story of the game is told through a man named Carl, who is married to a woman named June. At the beginning of the game the two are having a romantic picnic by the water when a sudden rain storm interrupts their meal and they retreat to the safety of their car. They decide to head home, but unfortunately on the way there June is killed in a car accident and Carl is left paralyzed and requires the use of a wheelchair. The rest of the story is Carl trying to go back in time (through memories of other characters on that day) and change the past to save June.
What unfolds after that is an incredibly powerful story that may not play out as well as Carl hopes it does. You take control of four other people who live in the village, all of their stories on that day are interconnected. You have to play out their memories and try to change the things they do on that day so that June will survive the car crash. One example of this is a boy who is going around to everyone in the village wanting them to play catch with him. One path through his story leads to an event where he inadvertently causes the crash. Another saves both him and June from the event. However, the choices you make in his story may affect another character which leads to them being the cause of the wreck and so on.
The puzzle elements of the story are pretty basic. The game is more of an interactive novel than a game really. The puzzles tend to be fairly simple and straightforward. The boy needs a rope to climb down a hill and retrieve a kite. However, the rope is being guarded by a grumpy old man who you must distract long enough to retrieve said rope. Another involves a woman moving out of the village and you need to clear paths of leaves for her to carry boxes through so she doesn’t lose her balance and drop her belongings. They all basically boil down to simple fetch quests where in just a few short minutes you’ll have managed to work out the solution to that puzzle and can move on.
Interspersed with these memories are flashbacks (or flash-forwards) of memories Carl had or could have had should June have survived the crash. As you move him through his house and close neighbors still images of these events can be interacted with where you hear the sounds of the events played out.
The game pulls together these visuals and sounds together into a remarkably moving experience. The visual design is very similar to Tim Burton style of movies. Characters have exaggerated features such as oversized heads, unrealistically long limbs, and no eyes. They speak no words. All of the game’s stories are told through mime and sound in a way that is universally understandable to anyone watching the events unfold. These characters all convey so much emotion without the needs for complex facial animations or deep conversations.
While you’ll see the stories play out from the differing points of view by the end of the game’s short four hour or so run time you’ll have seen the same scenes play out over and over again. That may be the game’s only downfall is by the end it can feel overly repetitive to the point you wish you could skip through some of the scenes you’ve seen so many times. Unfortunately there is no option to skip or fast forward through the scenes, but I think ultimately that actually to the game’s betterment. You would lose some of the emotional pull of those scenes if you were able to ignore them.
By the end you’ll find yourself reaching for the tissue box as you’ve wound your way through all of these character’s stories. You’ll feel for each of them as you play out their puzzles and hope beyond hope that Carl is able to change the past to enjoy a better future. Hopefully without spoiling the game things don’t necessarily work out the way Carl is hoping and I was wiping back tears as the game’s ending played out.
What you have in Last Day of June is an unbelievable powerful story of love and loss told in a way that had me glued to every moment. Games aren’t always the most powerful way to tell a story, but when a developer gets it right it’s incredible.
Review copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Played through the full story
Total Play Time: 4 hours