Played on Windows.
Also Available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4.
I don’t know how I keep finding my way into “walking simulators”. I suppose it’s because I have a desire to see extremely compelling stories, and walking simulators have to contain a better than average stories as that’s what keeps drawing people in. In this Last Day of June succeeds at an unprecedented level.
There was some trouble in my life when I played this game and when I looked at my list of games, I saw this was coming up next I had a feeling I was going to have an issue. I didn’t want a depressing game, I didn’t want to feel sad. Yet this was next on my playlist, so I hunkered down and prepared for a short session after which I would put it aside for later. Instead, I spent over an hour and a half watching this brilliant story unfolding, trying to do a let’s play for it and constantly being distracted by the way it delivers its story. You can see it in the youtube video linked below.
Last Day in June is like a masterclass in how to tell a story in a video game. Its story is the biggest piece of the whole game, but it skillfully entrapped me in the game to the point that I didn’t think much about “walking simulators” or any real flaws. I just wanted to see what would happen next.
It’s similar to The Norwood Suite, both of them are relatively simple games, but both of them excel at making the player want to see more. Where other games like What Remains of Edith Finch, might tell a deeper story it never shook itself from being “a game”. The Norwood Suite and Last Day of June made me forget that I was playing and got me more interesting in the story to the point where I barely thought of either game as “a walking simulator” and instead just wanted to play on compulsively.
The opening of Last Day of June feels a bit tender. A couple is having a loving moment on a dock together. You play the husband, Carl, who can start the game by picking flowers and delivering them to his wife, and eventually figures out he has to go to the car.
Last Day of June has a few minor quirks. The first problem is no one in the game has eyes at all, and… it’s a bit creepy, to be honest. I got somewhat used to it later, but it just feels like someone scooped out all the character’s eyes from the look of it. It’s certainly unique, but it’s something I feel that will return to me in a nightmare tonight. (PS. It didn’t. Thank God)
There’s also no voices just actions as players talk to each other in a language similar to “Simlish” from The Sims. In fact, while there’s some text when doing certain actions, most of the game has no context, and is done through motions, or rarely pictographs. Theoretically, this would work, but sometimes it’s a little obtuse. The worst moment is at the beginning where the player has to get a coat for his wife. She shows this by shivering but it’s done once, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pull the car around or help her to the car or some other action.
There aren’t many interactables at this point so eventually after giving her a couple of flowers for her hair I was able to understand what she wanted. It’s an odd start because the rest of the game is pretty well laid out and the actions are easier to understand, but for some reason, that opening has that odd moment to it.
From there, Last Day of June flashes back and forward in time as necessary for the story. After the time on the dock, the game flashes back showing how the couple ended up on the dock, and then forward to a time when Carl is alone.
There is a bit of an Up vibe to this picture and parts of the game.
Now I don’t intend to give away much of the story, but there is a great trauma in the story, and the first time you go into the future, the character doesn’t appear to remember what happened. It turned out the wife (named June) isn’t in the house, and Carl wakes up alone. Carl eventually comes to a painting of his wife and can “Remember”. From there you learn what happened. It sounds simple and it is until you find out that Carl appears to have a superpower and is able to return to that day and try to change things.
Now, the obvious point is that we’re going down a well-trodden path. Almost every game and movie with time travel eventually has to answer the question of “can the past be changed.” Last Day of June appears to answer “yes, it definitely can.” Carl somehow has the ability to not only remember the past but to change what actions certain people took. This becomes the gameplay of Last Day of June and you end up with a “walking simulator” with very strong puzzle elements.
The first loop is relatively simple, there’s a child who causes a problem, and you have to figure out how to avoid that situation. There are a couple of steps to it, but ultimately you’ll reach the point where the child ends up doing something else. The game then pulls back and shows more of the Last Day, and again sends you back.
Like I said, I’m trying to avoid giving away too much here, because this is really the core of the game, and I find the story to be so wonderfully done that I want people to experience it for themselves and I don’t think I can do it justice. However, when you work on the second problem, you start to realize that the two characters can interact. While they can’t directly talk to each other, the boy might be able to open a gate, for the second character to go through, or vice-a-versa.
Now it is a minimal amount of interaction between the two characters, but almost every interaction in the game feels meaningful, and there’s a good amount of revelation so you understand new characters that you didn’t think about before. There are a scant few characters in the game, but it also allows the puzzles to be relatively simple while still being very interesting and deep.
Those character interactions though are good because as you progress in the game you can explore more, and earn the collectibles in this game called simply “Memories”. Memories are images of the past of the characters, and each character has 5. They’re quite interesting and do reveal more of the backstory of the characters in a very impressive style. However, they aren’t required for the game.
The memories also explain images like this.
I am trying to avoid talking about the story, but I would feel wrong if I don’t talk a little about the ending, it is extremely touching and memorable. It made me cry a bit and made me think quite a bit, not just about it, but the ideas it brings up. I find that I’m still thinking about it. To me, that’s a great sign for any story, and Last Day in June has that great story that I look for in any game.
So I wish I could end it here, but similar to Carl, I have to look back and remember. In my case though I’m going to go back and remember some issues here.
There are a few things that really rubbed me the wrong way. The ending of the day often is the same even if you’ve seen it before. You often have to go back and change multiple things or try a few things. So when you go back and play the kid’s day, and haven’t fixed everything, you get to watch some trauma, and then when you go to the second character and fail to change anything you watch the same trauma again. It’s not the worst thing at first, but it eventually becomes excessive, and there is no way to skip it. It’s just a frustrating experience, especially if you aren’t sure what you should be doing.
There’s apparently one save file per computer, I wanted to get a picture of the title screen, so I switched to an alternate Steam Account, a trick that usually works. The only problem is that account uses the same save file. There’s also no cloud support, and it’s a feature I’d have liked to see, as well as multiple save slots. If you have two players who want to both play this game on PC, it doesn’t support that at all.
I got to the end of the game, and there’s an epilogue, but I accidentally quit right before the epilogue, not realizing it wasn’t over yet. I restarted the game and I couldn’t continue from that point, The game wanted me to start a new game, so I could never see the epilogue without playing the fourish hour game a second time.
Finally, I really dislike the fact that there’s no way to go back and replay the chapters a second time without going through the entire game a second time. There are a number of achievements that are missable and I find that to be poor planning of the developers, or an attempt to enhance replayability. Instead, it only promotes spoilers to avoid falling into that trap and for a story based game, spoilers are dangerous enough without points of no return, and this game should be experienced spoiler-free.
I really love the story of Last Day of June, and I tried to avoid writing too much about it because it’s a story I think players should see with fresh eyes. If this game was just that story, I’d probably rate it close to perfect if not perfect. It’s pricey but I really adore that storytelling, and the entire game.
But the negatives of the game do become significant. They take me out of the story and force me to grow upset with something I should love. It’s like putting parsley directly on a beautiful steak. Yes, it can make a meal look more visually appealing, but you eventually have to push it to the side or eat around it. It’s also a bit old-fashioned, as modern restaurants have found other ways to make food more appetizing.
Last Day of June is a perfectly cooked steak, it’s delicious from the first bite to the last. But someone put parsley on it. It’s still a great experience, but some minor changes could have made it more appealing, and just slightly more enjoyable.
Final thoughts: An amazing story, that had me wanting more, and wanting to see what would happen next. It’s not without some minor flaws, but if you are willing to go along for the ride, the story will be enjoyable.
Stats: 5,1 hours played, 15/21 achievements
I got this game in a Humble Monthly Bundle.