Friday, September 8, 2017

Last Day of June Review (PS4)

If you ever thought, “Boy, I wish I could play through the sad opening sequence of Pixar’s “Up” over and over again” do I have the game for you! Last Day of June is the tragic tale of a man losing the love of his life in a car accident and then getting to experience that day over and over again to try and prevent it from happening. The premise is rock solid, but the execution fails to deliver on the concept. Long load times, repetition, pacing issues, and the fact the core gameplay isn’t particularly fun sour the experience. Continue reading for all of the details in our Last Day of June review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: 505 Games            
  • Developer: Ovosonico
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Pros: Art style; music; solid cast of characters
  • Cons: Repetitive; emotional moments lose impact; load times; not especially fun
  • MSRP: $20

Very similar to Pixar’s “Up”, the opening of Last Day of June showcases the storybook love of Carl and June. They’re adorable together and seemingly perfect. On a trip back from a lovey dovey picnic, however, they get into a car accident where June is killed and Carl is paralyzed from the waist down.

At some unspecified point in time later the game returns to Carl, alone in his house and still distraught over the loss of June. He’s hungry so he gets in his wheelchair and you have to help him get something to eat. The can opener is tucked away in a box in June’s makeshift art studio – a room Carl clearly hasn’t been into in a while – so he reluctantly opens the door and starts looking around. Suddenly, one of June’s paintings starts glowing and Carl is whisked away into a memory showing the neighborhood kid chasing his soccer ball out into the road, which is what caused Carl to wildly swerve the car and led to their crash and June’s death.

The memory is playable, however, and by moving the kid around and distracting them with something else – like a kite – the ball won’t end up in the road and the crash can be avoided. Except that it turns out that just down the road from the kid and his ball was another accident that also would have had to be avoided. The idea behind the game is that you have to enter the memories of all of the residents in the small community on that fateful day to try and find a perfect combination of events that will result in June surviving.

It is a pretty fantastic setup but the execution falters. None of the puzzles surrounding the other characters – a kid, an old man, a hunter, and a woman – are particularly challenging. It just takes a bit of trial and error to see what you can change and how one change sort of dominoes into changes for the other characters. The problem is that the pacing in the game is pretty awful thanks to long load times and the fact the game makes you re-play long sections over and over and over again. The gameplay isn’t especially fun – it’s just a pretty basic third-person walking simulator, really – so having to re-do sections is a drag.

Seeing the same things over and over, particularly June’s death, largely robs the game of the emotional impact it worked so hard to get in the introduction. I also have to say that if you’ve seen many other time travel / time altering stories, particularly ones dealing with certain mature subjects like Last Day of June does, it is all actually fairly predictable, which I think also diminishes the emotional impact. It is still interesting to see how everything plays out, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t pack quite the punch the developers likely intended.

The presentation in Last Day of June is undeniably impressive all around. The character designs have a distinct Tim Burton-esque look (no eyes!) and the environments are nicely detailed and good-looking overall. There is no spoken dialogue and the story is told through Simlish-like gibberish and gestures, but it is surprisingly effective at letting you know exactly what’s going on. The real star of the whole experience is definitely the soundtrack, though, as it is just absolutely perfect.

All in all, Last Day of June is solid but stumbles in some crucially important areas that steal away a lot of the story’s impact. Repetition and load times ruin the pacing of the gameplay while predictability and, again, repetition hinder the impact of the story. It does offer a fairly unique experience, though, and for that reason it might be worth a look for walking sim fans or folks looking for a more mature emotionally driven story. Maybe wait for a sale, though, because even if you’re interested the $20 price tag is perhaps a bit much for a 4-5 hour game without much replay value. I commend the effort overall, but Last Day of June ultimately feels like one of those obvious Oscar bait movies with weighty emotional themes but little substance that fail to move critics.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.