To Feel, or Not to Feel
This is a unique one. Heck, I'm not even sure what genre Last Day of June falls into — but that's part of what makes it so charming. The title, developed by Ovosonico and published by 505 Games, plays like the lovechild of a short film and a puzzle-solving adventure.
Visually, it's adorable, yet creepy; the enchanting watercolor style of the environment pairs with bobble-head characters who wouldn't look out of place in A Nightmare Before Christmas. It's the eye-sockets-replacing-eyes that gets me. If walking around inside a Monet painting appeals to you, then just scoop this baby up right now.
But, for whom is this title not? If you're looking for continuous, heart-stopping thrills; a sense of danger, of urgency; or even just a simple feeling of suspense, Last Day of June isn't going to provide that — that's not what this is about. If anything, Last Day of June is intentionally slow-paced. In fact, you may even feel like you are going backwards at times (*coughs* Hint, hint *coughs*)
All puzzles are not equal.
I love a good puzzle. My husband can attest to this, as he bought me a book of puzzles for my last birthday, so I can just flip through the pages and put my mind to one whenever my heart desires. I also have a fascination for escape rooms — but I digress... I'm familiar with puzzles, that it's an expansive category notwithstanding.
All puzzles are not equal. They come in many different types, some of which you might prefer to others: wordplay, riddles, math, physics, mazes, logic, problem-solving, and what-to-make-for-dinner-on-a-weekday-night are just a few examples of the types of puzzles I can think of off the top of my head.
My least favorite puzzle type is the inscrutable kind that doesn't follow a logical chain, the ones where you basically have to try a bunch of stuff until you stumble on the answer. I think of this as a bruteforce tactic, akin to guessing someone's password after 5,536,901 attempts. Where's the fun in that? There is just a hint of such ham-handedness in Last Day of June, but what puzzler can cast a stone? It's not bad, mind you — I've seen far, far worse. But, there is a little of that going on: if your hope is to solve the most well-constructed puzzles in your life, that's not what you'll find here. But you find decent puzzles that require some thinking, trying, and creativity.
There is no dialogue in Last Day of June. None. That made the storyline a bit confusing to follow at times. The characters kind of murmur or coo to each other and gesticulate, but you have to figure out what they might be saying from those clues. I made an incorrect assumption about the relationships of a character or two at the start — jarring for me down the line. You must be perceptive, careful about deciding what you know versus what you don't, and willing to revise your understanding of what's going on.
You're still very likely to get the feels, but it depends on your personality.
Controlling the characters is a bit awkward. It feels a lot like driving a bumper car. There isn't a way to finely control the character's direction or movements, although you get used to it, and it works well enough for what you'll need to do.
Figuring out your goal at any given moment can be challenging. It's not intuitive. The entire premise of Last Day of June doesn't make logical sense — we're talking magic, here — so you shouldn't anticipate immediate omniscience. You must wander around for awhile until you discover the next steps. If that sounds like something that will frustrate you, then this isn't going to be enjoyable for you. But, as this is different from most games available on the market, it might feel novel and interesting for those of you who want something different.
Let me note, here, that there isn't a lot of gameplay time. You should be able to get to the ending in just a few, substantial sessions. As a rough estimate, I'd say there's somewhere between five and twelve hours of gameplay, depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles.
Last Day of June is supposed to tug at your heartstrings. Although not a single word is spoken, you recognize joy, anxiety, or pain when you see them. An interesting way of storytelling, to be sure, but not without its shortcomings. Yes, it might be successful in making you feel, but there’s no guarantee. It feels like there was a sacrifice made for artistic reasons, trading character depth for a more surreal experience. But, the trade didn't completely ruin the emotional payout. You're still very likely to get the feels, but it depends on your personality.
The Verdict: Great
Last Day of June is unique and story-driven, suited for those who appreciate a slower-paced journey. The reward is an artful experience that stands a chance of resonating with your heart.