'Last Day of June' - We Need to Accept Our Past
“Don't try to bear the blame. Deal with the pain.”
Accepting our past is not always easy, especially if it involves the death of a beloved one. We want to go back in time, change what we said, change what we did, and maybe, change how the story went.
How many times did we wish to see someone long gone again? We do it every day because we are humans, and we feel the pain of the loss even after years. We don’t forget, we never forget.
What would we give to bring someone back?
On this principle is based Last Day of June, an amazing, intense, and colourful adventure puzzle video game developed by Ovosonico and published by 505 Games in 2017.
The entire game is based on a song fro Steven Wilson, “Drive Home.”
The game starts with a beautiful and endless twilight. Endless as the love between Carl and June. They are sitting on a wharf, immersed in this beautiful twilight of a thousand colours. This game is a painting that can melt even the aridest of hearts, every shade of colour is so perfectly merged with the feelings the scene is giving, that we can’t help but stare at it in awe.
It is impossible not to notice how much Carl and June love each other, we do not understand it with the words the characters say, but with the small gestures they, do and the sweet way they look at each other. Their life together is perfect, painted on this canvas we cannot get tired of looking.
And then, out of nowhere, a storm comes. They run into their car and drive towards home, but a moment of distraction, just one single moment, brings with it complete darkness. Carl and June have a car crash.
Carl survives but ends up paralyzed, while June dies.
That day not only June died, but also a part of Carl—as it happens to most of us when we lose someone important. From the other side of the screen, we cannot avoid but feeling his sorrow. We just want to break into the game and hold him tight, tell him he is not alone. We live this painful loss with him, because we already loved them. We already loved June.
Carl will start surviving day by day, condemned to a wheelchair, and with the only company of the ghosts of the past.
One night, Carl discovers that the paintings made by June have a special power. He touches one of them, and he starts to live Last Day of June again, but with the eyes of someone else, the people painted on those canvases, their neighbours: an old man, a sweet lady about to move to another city, a dynamic kid, and a strange hunter. All those people, in one way or another, had an influence on the death of June.
And that is when Carl thinks “what if I can bring her back?”
Thanks to our interaction with the paintings, we find ourselves playing small and easy puzzles that will change a series of events, which apparently do not have any importance, but that actually contributed to the mortal car crash. The first phases of the game have pretty easy riddles, but as we progress within the game, they get more and more complicated, interweaving between each other, and creating a series of consequences, that will eventually lead to the final and big puzzle.
But despite our efforts, the game puts us in front of an awful truth: Carl cannot save June. We cannot save her. And we cry, we can feel the desperation inside us, because we can relate. Everyone lost someone, and everyone wanted to bring them back. Our heart broke in our chest, and we are feeling exactly what Carl is feeling. He keeps blaming himself for surviving, while she is gone forever. We cannot avoid the car crash.
So, in the end with one final act of love, Carl sacrifices himself, sitting in the spot where June was when she died in that damned car crash.
And she survives, but Carl dies.
What would we do for the ones we love?
Despite the numerous variables, and the number of characters, the puzzles are not too hard to solve, since Last Day of June requires strong emotional attention, and the game will never be too heavy to progress within. In fact, we will walk with the game, that will gently lead us to every choice we will make.
The design of this game will catch us from the beginning, this soft, sweet, and warm colour palette will guide us through the game. This is not just a technical component, it is an integral part of our journey.
Massimo Guarini and his team told us a wonderful and touching story, and they did it with such good care of the details, every single brushstroke touches the strings of our heart.
The characters do not have eyes or lips, but they can connect with us, even without dialogue, and that is all thanks to this mix of art and music. The message they want to send us is clear.
In the end, our heart races like never before, we are crying and we cannot stop. I still cry thinking about it.
We find ourselves in front of a masterpiece, that involves the players and their feelings until the very end.
The most wonderful thing in this game is how we can relate to Carl, how we can feel his sorrow. And, I bet everyone who played this game was thinking of someone long gone while trying to save June.
While playing this video game, I felt naked. I felt like Last Day of June was really exploring my deepest feelings and thoughts. And I cannot help but think this is amazing, because if we can still feel the pain in our chest, it means we are alive, and we are fighting every day.
Last Day of June is telling us to move on, and to cherish our memories with our beloved ones since, one day, they might not come back. We have to learn how to live without them, and how to deal with the hole they left in our heart.
As the song that inspired the video game says “Don't try to bear the blame. Deal with the pain.”