Italian independent studio Ovosonico and indie publisher 505 Games are quite serious about using art to set the mood in the their upcoming PC and PlayStation 4 game, Last Day of June. The game is like an interactive Impressionist painting, where the scenery and the characters come alive. It has an emotional story that challenges players to answer the question, “What would you do to save the one you love?”
I played the initial part of the game in a hands-on preview. The game dazzles you with bright, orange colors that accompany the happy scenes, and it has equally mesmerizing black and blue scenery in the darker scenes, after the woman in the game, June, dies in a car accident. After a scene that depicts the happy life of the couple before the accident, you play as Carl, the grieving spouse who has to get around in a wheelchair.
June and Carl were celebrating their anniversary on a dock on a lake when the weather turned for the worse. They drive home in the rain, only to skid to a screeching halt as they try to avoid running over a little boy who chases his soccer ball into the street. You get to play each one of the characters, trying to relive the day in a way that creates a different outcome.
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 has beautiful, evocative music from award-winning musician Steven Wilson. It is very ambitious in its quest to tell an engaging and original story in an industry that is full of sequels. It’s a little too early for me to judge the whole game, but I’m heartened by its originality.
It’s not a happy game, but it is touching.
“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 tale is told visually, as there are no words in the game. The characters are cartoon-like with big heads and no eyes. As I noted before, 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.
The initial chapter is something that sets the stage. You can’t change what happens. It sets up the first chapter, where Carl wakes up in a dark house and has to get around in a wheelchair. He goes into the room of June’s paintings, and they come to life. When he puts his hand on a painting, he goes into a flashback of what happened with that character on the fateful day. You then relive some of that day, and try to change the outcome.
While the game is set in a peaceful countryside with quaint homes and a relaxed setting, you feel the constant pressure to do something different. The weight of June’s impending doom hangs heavy around you. If you fail, she dies. And this could happen again and again until you solve the puzzles and answer the questions in the game.
The game debuts on the PlayStation 4 and PC on August 31.
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.
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