Italian independent studio Ovosonico and indie publisher 505 Games today announced their first project together, Last Day of June. The interactive adventure has an emotional story that challenges players to answer the question, “What would you do to save the one you love?”
The game promises to be an interesting original title in an industry that is full of sequels. In the game, a car accident claims the life of June, and the game challenges the player, as June’s spouse Carl, to relive that day and try to save her. It’s kind of like an emotional version of Bill Murray’s comedy Groundhog Day, said Massimo Guarino, creative director at Ovosonico, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“It was more about the emotion of the game. From that idea, starting with a theme that’s so familiar for all of us — if you think about finding yourself in a situation where you’re losing somebody you really care about, somebody you love, I thought it would be really interesting to develop a short story around that,” Guarini said. “The player would be able to act as the center of this experience, not just passively take in the story as something being told to them. The point was to make something where, through gameplay, you can experience those strong emotions and build up this journey through loss. That’s what we hope to do with this game.”
The collaboration involves Ovosonico’s Guarini (maker of Murasaki Baby, Shadow of the Damned, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja), musician and record producer Steven Wilson, and Jess Cope (animator on Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” and director for Metallica’s “Here Comes Revenge” music video).
Last Day of June takes place in a colorful, impressionistic styled world. It’s like walking into a painting, with simple, cartoon-like characters who make sounds and communicate emotions. But they don’t actually say any words.
The game reminds me of Sony’s horror game Until Dawn, which was my favorite game of 2015. Until Dawn also invoked the theory of the “Butterfly Effect,” or the chaos theory idea that suggests a small change in a system’s initial conditions can result in huge variations in a later state. The name was coined by Edward Lorenz, and it comes from an example where the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can cause subtle changes that affect the path of a hurricane weeks later. In the game, your smallest and biggest decisions can affect the outcome of the evening and who will survive “Until Dawn.” Sometimes, seemingly trivial choices will mean the difference between survival and death. Your choices will also matter in The Last Day of June, Guarini said.
“[Players] have the chance to relive the day before the accident and try to understand what went wrong, what can be changed, and if that might cause other events,” he said. “Of course, as we’ve seen in stories about the butterfly effect, if you change one little thing to avoid one outcome, you might cause something else. It’s going to be up to the player to experience how the facts unfold and how to change different things.”
But while Until Dawn didn’t reach far beyond horror fans, Guarini hopes that he can create an emotional experience that “connects with the broader audience of human beings.”
He added, “People feel comfortable broadly saying they don’t like video games without ever really trying them, but never say that about movies or music or art – there’s always something they can identify with. I believe games can be just as universal and relatable, and that’s what we’re attempting to show with this project.”
I played through the initial chapter. Last Day of June is a single-player journey that begins with Carl and June going on an outing to their favorite spot, a dock on a lake where they first fell in love. The player watches things happen, like June receiving a package from a visitor and then deciding to schedule the outing at the lake to give the gift to Carl. They proceed to the lake. Carl gets up and picks some flowers, goes to the car, and returns to June. As she gives the gift to Carl, bad weather strikes. They pack up and get in the car and drive into a tunnel where the accident happens.
I couldn’t see any spot where I could have changed the course of the day. There was one point where I approached the car from the passenger side, instead of the driver’s side. Carl didn’t bump his head, as he does when he opens the driver’s door. But I had no idea whether that was a significant event.
Last Day of June is being developed for PlayStation 4 and PC and will release later in 2017. 505 Games is a global video game publisher that has published titles such as Payday 2, Terraria, Portal Knights, Assetto Corsa, AB, Virginia, Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, and How to Survive.
The Calabasas, Calif.-based company has free-to-play for Battle Islands, Gems of War and Hawken. And it is the distributor for Rocket League, Stardew Valley, Dead by Daylight and Don’t Starve. Upcoming titles include Indivisible (from the development team behind Skullgirls), and Koji Igarashi’s next project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
Ovosonico is an award-winning game development studio founded in 2012 by Guarini, who collaborated in the past with Japanese game creators Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami.
Located by the beautiful shores of Lake Varese in northern Italy, Ovosonico’s debut title was Murasaki Baby, published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Guarini said the games has been in the works for 2.5 years.
“We want to embrace a diverse audience and embrace a universal language, the language of emotions,” Guarini said.