Time bending mechanics have been in-vogue since the release of the original Max Payne. And ever since, we’ve been receiving numerous titles which would feature time manipulation in one way or another. Max Payne has continued with slow motion throughout the years, Life is Strange allowed one to rewind time by minutes at a time, and the recently released The Sexy Brutale, gave one complete mastery over time, and allowed one to manipulate it at will. But regardless of how either of the above titles has utilised time manipulation, it has always been rendered pointless, as in the end, the choices you’ve made by rewinding time, turned out to be meaningless. That is until today, as the recently released Last Day of June, is likely the only title to be ever released where your choices completely restructure the story of the game.
Last Day of June is a title unlike majority of modern games, as it doesn’t concentrate on heroic acts of knights or soldiers, but on a life of an ordinary man, and people around him. The title itself begins with a tragic event which takes his ability to walk, and his wife’s life. And the initially idyllic existence, turns into a vivid nightmare, as he is forced to live with his choices till the end of days. But as he is beginning to comprehend what has happened, and why it happened. He is handed an ability to rewind the titular ‘’Last Day of June’’ in order to save himself, and his wife.
The core gameplay mechanic of Last Day of June, revolves around possessing other inhabitants of protagonist’s village, and forcing them to make different choices throughout the day. For example, when in control of a child, you can make him play with a kite rather than a football, meaning that his ball will not get into the middle of the road, and therefore the fatal accident will never take place – in theory. But once you accomplish the task of stopping the child from causing the accident, you learn that further down the road the accident still takes place, but because of a different resident of the village.
The cause and effect gameplay repeats itself, in total, three separate times. As throughout Last Day of June, you will take complete control of three different characters, who have to work in co-operation with each other, in order to prevent the accident from happening. But in order to do so, you’ll have to spend numerous hours jumping from one character to another, constantly making different choices, in order to ensure that the equilibrium is achieved, and that neither of them can cause the fatal crash.
The way in which the time bending mechanic has been implemented is simply incredible, as every single choice, within every single timeframe ultimately matters. The smallest change, can make a difference between the life and death. And once one realises that his/her choices truly matter, he/she ultimately gets sucked in into the world of Last Day of June, as every action, even the most insignificant one, rewards one with a new string of events. And this ultimately infects the player with the ‘one more round’ bug, where he/she will continue playing for just one more rewind, one more memory, in order to see what happens next, and this exactly where the excellence of Last Day of June truly lies.
Last Day of June, despite of its monotone and seemingly mundane setting, manages to transform itself into an engaging, and intense title. The seemingly soulless story becomes a digital page turner, and when it gets its paws on you, it won’t let you go until the very end. But while it does everything it can to keep on its hold within a single, one-sit, playthrough, it fails to achieve the same within multiple sittings, and that’s because once one gets a moment of clarity away from the title, the disassociation will begin to creep in, and the link between the player and the game can disappear completely.
The disassociation between the two, is something that can happen to any and all titles even when they seem to be masterfully crafted. And that’s because at times, there are gaps between different parts of the title. And in case of Last day of June, there isn’t just one little gap, but an entire canyon, and it is dividing the story and the gameplay from the audio-visual façade.
Last Day of June’s gameplay and the core plot are both mature, and have been created in order to portray a story of human suffering, and the inevitability of death. However, the audio-visual side of Last Day of June, has been created with a light-hearted, comedy centric, title in mind. As both the art style of the title, as well as the sound design seem like they’ve been ripped straight out of child’s playbook. All in-game characters look, and act in an over-dramatic comical way – even the hunter, the most serious of them all, runs with his head hanging in the back, while his feet are comically flailing metres in front of his body. And to top it all off, all characters sound like they are being narrated by Rowan Atkinson, in Mr Bean character.
In short, Last Day of June feels like a game which was being developed by two separate teams, which were seemingly working on two separate titles. One was working on a harrowing tale of human existence, whereas the other was working on an adaptation of the Mr Bean TV series. And ultimately both sides of the title clash with one another, and end up consuming each other as there is simply not enough room for both. And when all is said and done, one is faced with a title which is right in the middle of a self-created identity crisis. And ultimately a title which is ironically as incomplete, as it is successful.
Without a doubt, many will find Last Day of June to be an excellent addition to their digital-game-library. And fans of adventure games, will surely swallow it up whole, as it is right up there with Life is Strange, and other incoherent titles such as What Remains of Edith Finch. But ultimately, this is also a title which many will end up disappointed with, as by promising to deliver a hard-hitting story on par with That Dragon Cancer, it also provides one with a façade which one would expect from Double Fine Games. And by dabbling in both, it fails to establish singular identity, and it is nowhere near as good as it should it. But it is still on par with what many have come to expect from modern adventure titles. And even if one finds the above the be overly problematic, Last Day of June is worth playing for its ballsy ending alone.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.