The Last Campfire is the most recent release from Hello Games…yes, that Hello Games. You know, the small independent studio that made No Man’s Sky. That, however, is the last time we intend to mention the aforementioned game because this is a totally different beast.
Announced as a trailer during the Video Game Awards in 2018, this little indie puzzler came out on 27th August. And we’ve spent a good bit of time playing through and trying to uncover it’s mysteries. For full disclosure, this game was played via the Apple Arcade service and was not provided by any third party.
If there were one word to describe The Last Campfire, we would have to go with “chill”. It’s odd to start with that, but it is, without a doubt, The Last Campfire‘s biggest asset. You play as Ember, a little…thing, who has become lost in an unexpected world. He finds others of his kind across this strange world that have given up and become ‘forlorn’. Luckily, Ember is a far more sympathetic being than us and tries to coax them out of their seeming depression. This typically manifests itself in a top-down or isometric environmental puzzle. As you explore, there are different areas to unlock and other puzzles to work out on how to progress or interact further with the world.
We played using both touch screen and a gamepad and both worked well. The controls are simple and either method played well. A rarity in many games that run on mobile devices.
Just look at the cute little fella!
The world is beautifully rendered with some gorgeously colourful areas and characters. While designed to run on lower-end devices (such as iPhones), the developers made the most of the little world and character animations, never feeling cheap and looking nice on even the biggest screen. The detail in the world is well crafted, as are the character animations. There is also a nice and relaxed soundtrack that fits the ambience perfectly. If anything, it only contributes to both the serene world and the emotional beats of the story.
I’m on a boat!
Metaphor and Imagery
Speaking of story, The Last Campfire is more about metaphor and atmosphere than tying together a strong narrative. Ember’s journey is more about themes – particularly around resilience, mortality and hope. Indeed, hope is truly personified by your playable character and his goal to help others move on in their own adventures.
Tying together the story is a single narrator. She voices all characters, as well as notes, and the inner monologue of Ember and those around him. The narration, while working in the context of the game, is probably a more divisive point and we could see this being a ‘love it or hate it’ aspect for some. In our opinion, the narration was nicely balanced with the atmosphere of the game but there is a stylistic choice in the way the narration is delivered throughout that could grate.
There are also cute piggies!
A Familiar Feel
If you feel this is sounding familiar, that’s because it is. There is no denying that this is one of a number of smaller, ’emotional’ narrative indie games that are out there. We wouldn’t say that the game is particularly original in either its story or core gameplay but in the five-seven hours of game time, that didn’t really matter to us.
The game is not particularly challenging. As a puzzler, the puzzles are fun and refreshing but they won’t have you pulling your hair out and you’ll rarely (if at all) be stumped. Again, that didn’t matter to us because that wasn’t the focus. In fact, having real head-scratchers would have taken away from the experience. There is a clear passion here from the creatives behind the game and it oozes through.
What the game really felt like was a nice, relaxing, breath of fresh air. Let’s face it, 2020 has been a constant kick in the nether regions to us all. It felt good to have a game that we could sit for an hour or so and just play for the fun of playing. It wasn’t twee or forced. The relaxing and emotive narrative seemed to be pitched just right. We couldn’t say this game was the next big thing but it still felt worth playing. It was…chill. With the world the way it is right now, chill was exactly the sort of experience we were looking for.
See…we managed to do the whole review without talking about how this game wasn’t hyped liked No Man’s Sk – ah crap!
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- Overall - 8/108/10
+ Beautiful World and Sound Design
+ Relaxing and fun gameplay
-Narration may not work for some
-Not a very challenging game