Last Day of June Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Last Day of June RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Best Indies/Sleeper Hits of the Year https://www.gameskinny.com/rhwoe/best-indiessleeper-hits-of-the-year https://www.gameskinny.com/rhwoe/best-indiessleeper-hits-of-the-year Thu, 21 Dec 2017 17:19:14 -0500 bazookajo94

[{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/a/s/last-day-june-szt2-c76ba.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/a/s/last-day-june-szt2-c76ba.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176043","description":"

I'm not sure what a game developer has to do in order to breach the border separating "indie" from "AAA," but if indie games can do just as well as the big guys, then maybe they don't have to worry about crossing that line at all.

\n

Any game with a stellar art style, superb sound design, and a killer story (metaphorically or otherwise) deserves its place on this list -- whether they be loud and quick or soft and subtle, these indie games are sure to burrow their way into someone's heart.

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-e7e34.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-e7e34.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176041","description":"

Bendy and the Ink Machine

\n
Platform: PC
\n

I love the phrase "accidental success", and I didn't even know it could be a thing until I discovered Bendy and the Ink Machine.

\n

Developed by TheMeatly Games, Bendy and the Ink Machine's first chapter was released in February, and apparently, the developers didn't think it was going to do as well as they thought. 

\n

This survival horror game follows the story of Henry, an animator visiting his old workplace, where he discovers that his old boss was an occultist, and some seriously demonic stuff has happened to the studio since Henry's departure.

\n

The game releases parts in chapter segments, with the most recent Chapter 3 having been released in September. 

\n

Bendy and the Ink Machine is cute, terrifying, and is sure to make people hate the cartoons they grew up with. 

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/o/u/t/outlast2-b6077.png","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/o/u/t/outlast2-b6077.png","type":"slide","id":"176039","description":"

Outlast 2

\n
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4
\n

Any sequel to a game as scary as Outlast has a lot to live up to. I'll never forget how terrified I was the first time I opened the library door in Outlast and a dead body came flying at my face. You just can't beat an opening jump scare like that. 

\n

Outlast 2 gave its best shot, though. 

\n

Developed by Red Barrels and released in April, Outlast 2 follows a married couple investigating the murder of a pregnant woman. Their search brings them to an occult village whose inhabitants believe that the end is nigh, and then things start to get really weird.

\n

Outlast delivered frightful imagery and haunting stories that stuck with the player long after the game is over, and Outlast 2 is no different. A good horror game is one that players dread playing. A great horror game is one that compels the player to keep on playing anyway, and Outlast 2 is just that.

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/b/l/o/blogimage-2629d.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/b/l/o/blogimage-2629d.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176037","description":"

Hollow Knight

\n
Platforms: PC
\n

I'm so glad that one of the main staples of indie games is fantastic art -- and I'm even gladder still when that fantastic art is as haunting as what you'll find in Hollow Knight

\n

Team Cherry's Hollow Knight tells the story of a knight on a quest for treasure and travels through the abandoned Hallownest kingdom. It is a game of combat and exploration (what else would a knight do?) where players will discover what really happened to Hallownest.

\n

Beautiful, haunting, and delightful mysterious, Hollow Knight has received positive reviews from most critics. 

\n

And, really, anything dark and little steals my heart.

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/m/a/x/maxresdefault-73d78.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/m/a/x/maxresdefault-73d78.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176035","description":"

Last Day of June

\n
Platforms: PC & PlayStation 4
\n

Color design has just as much impact on a viewer as sound and graphics. If any game presents itself with a warm sunset beside a dusky purple, things have gone wrong and things will be sad. 

\n

And Last Day of June is sad. 

\n

Developed by 505 Games and released in August, Last Day of June is an adventure puzzle game that centers around a couple who's just been struck with tragedy (meaning one of them died and the other must come to terms with it). 

\n

Praised for its beautiful aesthetics and great storytelling, Last Day of June is good at winning hearts and then breaking them into a million tiny pieces. 

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/5/c/0/5c0d3b741e91296f9899b41332aad9fd-3d66e.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/5/c/0/5c0d3b741e91296f9899b41332aad9fd-3d66e.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176030","description":"

Tokyo 42

\n
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
\n

While there may be many assassin games players can find on the market, I doubt players will be able to find one quite like like Tokyo 42

\n

With it's low-poly aesthetic and simplistic perspective, Tokyo 42 sets players in a world where they are framed for murder, and they must fight for their lives against assassins in a colorful Tokyo setting. 

\n

With level designs reminiscent of the mobile game Monument Valley, Tokyo 42 boasts a tactical stealth play style and competitive multiplayer gameplay. 

\n

SMAC Games did their best with this indie title, despite some players reservations. At the very least, it's a beautiful game with an interesting idea, and definitely worth any indie fan's time.

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-cd7b8.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-cd7b8.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176029","description":"

Little Nightmares

\n
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
\n

Thrill-seeking gamers around the world rejoiced when Little Nightmares was added to the library of horror games this year -- even one as eerily cutesy as this one (if hugging is an action I can do in a game, then the game becomes 99% more cute than it was before). 

\n

Developed by Tarsier Studios and released in April, Little Nightmares follows a little girl named Six on her journey across The Maw. Players discover the secrets behind The Maw and this "precious" little girl as they trek through five levels of puzzles, scares, and mysteries.

\n

Despite its short length and long wait times, critics enjoyed the game for its atmosphere, suspense, and artistic cast of characters.

\n

And don't forget the hugs (I know I never will). 

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/5/7/2/572dc161-0e1c-4ff2-ae9f-bfc4d03ecb08-4aae1.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/5/7/2/572dc161-0e1c-4ff2-ae9f-bfc4d03ecb08-4aae1.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176027","description":"

Cuphead

\n
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
\n

I don't think I've ever played a game as great as Cuphead since I started playing video games twenty years ago.

\n

With it's run-and-gun style of gameplay, Cuphead follows the story of Cuphead and his brother Mugman as they fight bosses and collect souls for the devil in return for souls of their own. Differing from games of similar ilk, Cuphead is based more on boss fighting than level-progression; each level consists of only fighting a boss, with a few boss-less levels that serve as a way for characters to collect money.

\n

The developers Studio MDHR really put themselves on the charts with this game. Though its name and reputation has been around since E3's 2014 conference, Cuphead lived up to the hype, and its worldwide September release garnered critical renown, scooping up multiple nominations and awards.

"},{"image":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/b/e/n/bendy-ink-machine-what-have-creators-learned-dagames-youtube-11804.jpg","thumb":"https://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,h_85,w_97/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/b/e/n/bendy-ink-machine-what-have-creators-learned-dagames-youtube-11804.jpg","type":"slide","id":"176044","description":"

As indie gaming grows more prominent in the gaming community, it's a wonder that they some can still be considered "indie." Indie games can be just as loud and proud as AAA -- or they can be as soft and subtle in a way a AAA game can't be.

\n

So, just as I have compiled the 9 best PS4 games of 2017, here are some of the best indie games this year has to offer.

"}]]]>
How Last Day of June was Hurt by Its Source Material https://www.gameskinny.com/jmyun/how-last-day-of-june-was-hurt-by-its-source-material https://www.gameskinny.com/jmyun/how-last-day-of-june-was-hurt-by-its-source-material Thu, 26 Oct 2017 11:27:51 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Based off of a song and music video by Steven Wilson titled "Drive Home", Last Day of June is an interesting adventure game that revolves around changing the past to prevent a car accident that resulted in your wife's death. 

While the specifics of the story between the music video and video game are different, a similar theme and shared plot devices ensure that both feel very similar. As GameSpot's reviewer, Alex Newhouse said:

"When tragedy strikes, we crave the ability to go back and change things. We grieve and yearn for a real-life rewind button that gives us a do-over. We often assume that future events are delicately determined based on every little decision that we make. Of course, in reality, events don't work like that--there's probably no one flashpoint that could be prevented to stop something from happening in the future. Last Day of June deals with the frustration, anger, grief, and hope that comes from this belief that changing one little thing could reverse a tragedy--perhaps save a person from death."

This is true for both Last Day of June (LDoJ) and "Drive Home" (DH); they just so happen to go about this in different ways.

Warning: there are some spoilers for The Last Day of June in the rest of this article. While the ending isn’t spoiled, several individual plot points are.

You might want to watch the video or read the lyrics prior to continuing on. 

Last Time On...

In "Drive Home", Charles-- the protagonist-- is driving home with his wife when she suddenly disappears and he is stricken with an odd injury out of nowhere. Dismayed and bound to a wheelchair, Charles starts writing letters to his wife, Lucy. Soon, these letters, which he has no way of sending to her, consume most of his house. Eventually, he goes down to the dock and sees one of her old brushes in the water, so he picks it up. Later, her ghost visits him and through a series of events he ends up remembering that he caused her death. He couldn’t live with himself so his mind choose to forget everything that had happened.

In LDoJ, you follow a somewhat similar arc, especially if you look at the game through the same lens as Alex. While the game doesn’t explicitly center around a missing June, instead you are trying to save her. There are details that seem to allude to this idea of her "missing". The game is framed in such a way that her death is ambiguous at first. Every time you complete a segment, you see Carl wake up in his chair seemingly startled to realize that his wife is still gone and he is still disabled. Most importantly, the game focuses on this idea that you can’t actually change what was going to happen.

Analysis

In this regard, I disagree with Alex concerning the specifics of there being no one flashpoint. In my eyes, LDoJ presents several different flashpoints that can be changed, it's just that all of these flashpoints ultimately lead back to the same cruel fate. This all eventually coincides with the conclusion that June’s fate is preordained; she was meant to die. It wasn’t that things were more complex than you realized, as Alex suggests, it was that she was meant to die on that day on that stretch of road. This is communicated by the fact that eventually a lightning bolt -- something you can’t prevent -- caused their crash.

But it is in this fight against fate that the notion of being unable to change things, being powerless, is found. And this ties to Charles’ denial in DH. When we are in denial, we believe we have the power to change things. We overestimate how much influence we could have had in any given situation. We think we are powerful, influential even, which is at odds with reality.

The protracted battle, with the inevitable death of June at its end, that Carl faces is denial; denial of his powerlessness in the face of his lover’s death. In the same vein, Charles is in denial about the fact that his actions caused him to lose the person that mattered more to him than anyone else in the world. It’s subtly different, but both are a form of denial in their own right.

The More Things Stay the Same...

While the story of both follow similar beats-- ghost wife offering clarity, wheelchair/disability, focus on a particular McGuffin (necklace in DH and present in LDoJ), the dock being a place of great importance, car crash, etc-- and address similar themes, LDoJ tells its story a lot differently than DH thanks to the inclusion of the four neighbors.

In DH, there are only two characters: Charles and Lucy, husband and wife. But in LDoJ, there are 6 characters: Carl and June-- husband and wife-- the kid, the best friend, the hunter, and the old man (I swear that’s their names per the credits. I can’t make this stuff up.).

The problem with this, however, is that the story doesn't really change to accommodate that. It is still about the relationship between a husband and wife except now there are four side characters that take up most of the game’s screen time.

I did talk about this in my review:

I was left asking myself: how would the game fundamentally change if you removed these four neighbors? The answer is: it wouldn’t. Despite them feeding into the events, they emotionally and thematically contributed little to nothing in a story driven game. Saving June feels abstracted because of this.

Carl may be the motivator to all of this, but he is two steps removed from the process. And unlike the four neighbors, you don’t learn much about Carl outside of his relationship and subsequent descent. This may have been an intentional way to get you to feel like you are inhabiting him by leaving him a blank slate who is easy to project onto, but it felt empty to me. In a story where I don’t get to bond with June much and I play as characters that are abstracted from her by two degrees of separation, everything felt a little hollow.

This really rounds out my thesis and brings it to a point, which is outlined by the two following problems: either the game was too faithful to its source material and should have changed the themes of the game to accommodate a larger cast, or it was too divergent from its source material and should have found a way to communicate its story without including these extra, unnecessary characters.

Personally, I think there are a couple really interesting directions they could have gone with this expanded cast.

Too Divergent

The writer’s obsession with the crash being the vehicle for June’s death (pun intended) was one of the more glaring problems with sticking to the source material. This worked well in DH, and even the first time in LDoJ, but, as mentioned in the review, seeing them crash over and over on the same stretch of road desensitized you to the tragedy. Stopping the boy from playing with the ball in the street only caused the crash to happen 3 seconds later instead of 3 weeks later. At a certain point, it became interesting to see what new, ridiculous death sequence your heroics would create.

If the game followed a structure similar to the anime Re:Zero then it would be amazing. In Re:Zero, the protagonist goes about his business like any normal person would… until he ends up getting himself killed. At this point, he wakes up at an arbitrary, yet predetermined time, and has to figure out some way to prevent his death against often insane odds. This storytelling gimmick provides some great hooks for the viewers.

First, you never know what is going to happen. There will be long stretches of time where you are left grimacing at all the horrible potential deaths that could be suffered. It makes you look at everything with a paranoid sense of dread like in the Final Destination movie franchise. Obstacles then present a real threat because you know you could die at any moment as opposed to stories where you know the main character is too important to die. Although it is not permanent, that does not remove the stakes. Which brings me to my second point.

The protagonist remembers everything. In Re: Zero, there are characters that become dear friends only to forget him in the blink of an eye. Meeting them for the first time again while knowing a ton of information about them can make things awkward. He already feels close to them, but has to still navigate this relationship like he doesn't know their birthday. In fact, this happens with the primary love interest in the show. So while the protagonist is fond of her from the time he has spent with her in previous iterations of his life, she doesn’t know why he is so attached to her.

This would accomplish a few huge things. First, you would not need to play most of the game as other people. They could still exist, but since they were not the people through which you lived the game they would not need to feel like they had as much skin in the game. Second, you’d be able to form a bond with June since she’d be around more often. Sure she might not remember all the possible paths you have lived, but that’d be fine. As long as you grow fond of her through your interactions then eventually coming to terms with her death would be emotionally draining, in a positive way.

Of course, this would require a significant amount of extra content to be made. And, while this storytelling gimmick works wonders in Re:Zero, it might be harder to pull off in an interactive medium, where inevitable deaths could become a nuisance, and finding solutions could boil down to trial and error. However, it should be noted that's a problem the game already suffers from.

Too Similar

Another option would be to wake up as the various characters in their respective homes to see how they felt guilty for June’s death. The kid next door would feel bad about his ball causing June’s death in the first scenario. The best friend would feel guilty that her untied boxes caused the death in the second scenario. The hunter would feel guilty about how his chase caused the cliff to collapse on the road in the third scenario, and so on. 

As is, when Carl wakes up, he realizes that June is still dead, goes to her self-portrait, sees how she died in this new timeline, and then has one of the doors to the house open up. Exiting through that door leads you through a path. Along the path, there are memories of the young couple which reveals facts about their past together. This is repeated about four or five times in the game. But this setup could easily be used for the other neighbors too.

Imagine that the little boy wakes up in a cold sweat from his tree house. He looks over and sees the totaled car that still sits in Carl and June’s driveway and is filled with remorse. Chunking his ball off of his tree house in a rage at his own idiotic pursuit of it only weeks prior, he sees a light glow as Carl’s front door opens up. Being the precocious little kid that he is, he simply can’t resist a temptation this great. He lowers his rope and slides down. Sneaking out of the hole in his gate that his parents still haven’t fixed, or noticed for that matter, much like he did weeks prior, he looks over to the base of his tree and remembers when June painted his portrait. He works his way across the street and into Carl’s house.

Saddened at the sight of an evidently irritated sleeping Carl, he is beckoned further into the art studio in the rear of the house. It’s here that he is reminded, and we are shown for the first time, how his irresponsible actions caused June’s death in the first place. He sees his own portrait. She even painted the scar on his cheek that he’d received playing with his friend; the one you later learn moved away months prior. And she also painstakingly recreated the hat that same friend gave him in her trademark post-impressionist painting. Then he touches the painting and is transported to that day. From here things would play out similar to normal as you change his actions much like the way it currently works.

Eventually, as the web becomes more complex there would be a need to create some sort of plot device that connects all the characters. However, since the hand that moves the story forward is magical and never fully explained, it is reasonable to believe that this could easily be worked out. All it needs to do is bring everyone to the same place on the same evening.

This would fundamentally shift the story towards being about community rather than romance. But that honestly felt like what the story was going for at times anyhow. And it would add more depth to a story that comes across as one dimensional at times. While most characters are portrayed as having very simple motivations, their relationships seem to be more complex.

The little boy has a strained relationship with the old man because he has destroyed so much of his property over the years, but the young boy also doesn’t have any friends and this ends up resulting in the old man and young boy bonding over a shared hobby: kites. The best friend is defined by the fact that she has a crush on Carl while being June’s friend. But seeing those dynamics play out a little more by seeing Carl interact with her now that he is technically single but 100% grieving adds a ton of room for emotional complexity.

To stay aesthetically consistent, this wouldn't need any speech either. The first scene with Carl and the best friend, which is also really the only scene with the two in it, immediately conveys that she likes him just by her bashful demeanor and the way her touch lingers when handing him an item. This same sort of subtle storytelling can be used to show how she fights her own personal desires to be there for her best friend’s widower. Moreover, just because the larger tone of the story becomes familial and community-based doesn’t mean the romantic elements are gone because Carl would still be present.

Perhaps most importantly, unlike the Re:Zero idea, you would not need to fundamentally change the vast majority of the game. Much of the content would work the same and only a relatively small amount of extra content would be needed to flesh out the backstories of the various neighbors (Maybe give them names?).

Perhaps Alex said it best in the closing remarks of his review:

Last Day of June succeeds when it doesn't focus specifically on the love story of Carl and June, but rather on their entire community and the way they confront mortality and fate.

]]>
Last Day of June Review-- Sad For All The Wrong Reasons https://www.gameskinny.com/7lgyh/last-day-of-june-review-sad-for-all-the-wrong-reasons https://www.gameskinny.com/7lgyh/last-day-of-june-review-sad-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Sat, 16 Sep 2017 12:00:20 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Last Day of June is a story driven indie adventure game based on the works of Steven Wilson, of Porcupine Tree fame. In particular, it uses Drive Home and its accompanying music video as its influence. However, I don’t want to divulge more about the game’s premise up front since I feel it’s best to go into the experience blind. As such, I suggest not watching the music video until you've played the game.

A Cohesive Art Direction

This game shines artistically. The character designs feel like they could have been pulled out of a Tim Burton stop motion film. Characters also communicate without using spoken language, instead, using body language and small grunts, cheers, and other assorted noises. While at first, it might seem limiting, I quickly realized that their inflection revealed more than enough detail in most situations. The animations for all of the characters also felt appropriate. The Hunter cartoonishly gallivanted around, while the old man hobbled around with his cane in tow.

Some screenshots literally look like paintings. 

The overall aesthetic is strongly influenced by Vincent Van Gogh and the post-impressionist art movement; I even noticed a portrait of him hanging in their hallway. Interestingly, this makes sense in-game because June is a young artist. The further an object is away from you, the less detailed it is, seemingly using fewer strokes of the brush, while closer objects seem to be painted with greater detail. This takes advantage of the way games naturally work since far off objects usually have separate models with fewer polygons which are replaced with hi-polygon models as you get close. I have wanted to see something like this in a game for a long time and I cannot say I am disappointed; I hope other devs pay attention.

Much like the game itself, the soundtrack directly utilizes sections from various Steven Wilson songs. Personally, I was familiar with most of the songs used, but I never felt like this broke the immersion. In fact, I feel that a lot of Wilson's music is actually suitable for a video game soundtrack because of the emotional elements natively present in them.

All of this combined together into one of the most cohesive and satisfying artistic experiences I have seen in a game to date. The minimalistic communication combined with the use of various environmental storytelling techniques and post-impressionist art style made the game feel like all the artists were on the same page; they had a vision and they knew how to make it happen. Steven Wilson’s soundtrack only helped to make the game come to life.

I hope you didn't doubt that there was a chibi, eyeball-less Van Gogh portrait.

To some people, I feel like this extraordinary artistic execution alone will warrant a purchase. While I don’t have any spoilers in the following section, per se, I do discuss the game’s premise. With that warning out of the way, I continue with...

Gameplay & Story

The story centers around Carl trying to prevent the untimely crash that led to the death of his wife, June, and his disability, which limits him to a wheelchair. You accomplish this by playing as your various neighbors leading up to the events that caused the crash. For instance, originally the kid next door ran into the street for his ball causing you to swerve. By taking control of him, you were able to find another activity for him to get involved in which didn’t involve him running into the street. Eventually, this proves to not be enough so you must control more and more characters until you are manipulating the actions of all 4 neighbors leading up to the crash.

The music video for Drive Home, the source material for this game. 

This concept is interesting at first but falls flat on its face thanks to the fact that many of the pieces don’t fit together. The game is more strongly based on trial and error than any actual thought process, and this becomes destructive both to the story and towards its ability to be an interesting puzzle/adventure game. For instance, the solution to the second cause of death makes little sense based off of the rules set forth by the game while solving the first cause of death. 

This trial-and-error and lack of an established logic for the game world is exacerbated by long load times and the fact that replaying segments forces you to rewatch “end of day” cutscenes as well as the way that Carl and June end up crashing.

This fuels a cycle of confused frustration where it takes several minutes to try a different solution to a puzzle that doesn’t always have any logical rules in place to begin with. This also had another unintended effect: forcing me to see Carl and June’s crash desensitized me to it. While the first couple of times I was emotionally invested and felt Carl’s frustration as he sought to save his wife from a cacophony of unfortunate events that caused them to crash on that fateful evening, by about the dozenth time I literally found myself laughing as they careened off the road due to another morbidly comedic mishap.

Looking over his unmade, unused bed sunk my heart. 

But to me, this ignores the biggest problem: that playing the game as the 4 neighbors doesn’t feel tied to June. I mean, their actions very literally, although inadvertently, cause her death so you can see a correlation, but their motivations aren’t ever connected to June’s death. You never see them grieve for her and you don’t see significant interactions between most of these characters and June to understand the nature of their relationship and how her death would affect them.

I was left asking myself: how would the game fundamentally change if you removed these 4 neighbors? The answer is: it wouldn’t. Despite them feeding into the events, they emotionally and thematically contributed little to nothing in a story driven game. Saving June feels abstracted because of this.

Carl may be the motivator to all of this, but he is 2 steps removed from the process. And unlike the 4 neighbors, you don’t learn much about Carl outside of his relationship and subsequent descent. This may have been an intentional way to get you to feel like you are inhabiting him by leaving him a blank slate who is easy to project onto, but it felt empty to me. In a story where I don’t get to bond with June much and I play as characters that are abstracted from her by 2 degrees of separation, everything felt a little hollow.

Carl's relationship was built up early on, but that's asked to carry the game.

Allowing these characters to help flesh June out would have made me like her a lot more. As is, it felt like I was expected to care about her death because she was the protagonist’s love interest and that’s pretty weak.

Conclusion

This game’s art direction deserves to be noticed; I hope it wins awards for that aspect. But I really don’t want to people to conflate a great art direction with a great and memorable story. When I first accepted this game for review I looked up some previews and I quickly saw headlines and descriptions demanding that you prepare yourself with a box of tissues. Sadly, thanks to poor storytelling and frustratingly repetitive game design I was just left feeling angry at the end of the game; not sad.

]]>