I didn’t need to get too far into Last Day of June at E3 2017 to know that I would in for some Pixar-levels of sobbing by the game’s end.
How do you hook an audience into a game who has an aversion to, or lack of knowledge about games? That’s what Ovosonico wants to find out with Last Day of June, a game that almost immediately invoked thoughts of Pixar films and impressionist paintings. When I visited with the team at E3 2017, they told me a story of how Steven Wilson, whose music they wanted to base the game around, didn’t want to work on games at all. Driven to convince him and others that games could tell just as moving stories as film or literature, they put their heart and soul into one scene of Last Day of June and won him over.
They won me over at E3, too, though I took far less convincing. Last Day of June is a narrative-based of a couple, Carl and June, whose relationship meets an untimely end due to an unforeseeable tragedy. Carl then continues to return to the day that it happened, struggling to piece together a sequence of events that would have kept things between them beautiful and alive as they were.
It’s a game that promises consequences for actions, though I only got the tiniest glimpse of that in my brief demo. June, sitting on a lake dock, shivered with the wind as she drew a portrait. I went to the car to get her jacket, and picked a flower for her on my way back. By offering it to her, the flower appeared in her finished sketch of Carl. Had I not, the flower never would have shown up. It’s a tiny detail, but tiny details like that are what Last Day of June promises to thrive on.
The game is certainly exquisitely beautiful, with stop motion animation and impressionistic visuals that evoke thoughts (at least on the dock) of Monet’s water lilies. The use of color will prove vital, too. Just in the trailer you can see the contrast between the bright and happy days with Carl and June together and the darkness that follows, though it was pointed out to me that this darkness creeps along the edges of even the game’s opening scene. There’s also a notable visual effect that I saw where objects grow blurrier the further away they are, so that the distance of the game is constantly an indiscernible whirl of color. The effect is deliberate, beautiful, and a touch haunting.
By focusing on story, visuals, music, and very simple controls instantly explained via prompts on the screen, Last Day of June reaches out to players who wouldn’t normally give games a chance, though I have my doubts about its ability to find that audience at all by clinging to Steam and the PS4 online store. But even if few non-gamers find the title, I don’t think it matters much where you are on the spectrum of appreciating gaming as an art form; Last Day of June touches your heart immediately regardless.
Last Day of June will launch for PS4 and Steam sometime in 2017.