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The Last Summary

  • Frogge
  • 01/30/2019 08:34 PM

The Last Summer by Macbeth
Length: ~1.5 hours

It's a curious thing, childhood. On one end, it's kind of horrible, having literally no idea about everything that's going on around on you. On the other, the innocence makes it much easier to enjoy things. The feeling of nostalgia is one of my favorite things to feel. Childhood is an interesting time where we're all stupid and live in our own little worlds. And that's the main subject tackled by The Last Summer.

The Last Summer is a game about Timothy. Wait. Timothy. Hmm, isn't that the name of another main character from another game by this developer? Makes me wonder why they would use the exact same name for a main character twice. I don't know if this game has any connections to that other game, but I have no plans to play it in forseeable future, so I guess it shall remain a mystery. Anyway, Timothy is a boy who's about to transition to middle school (which is easily the scariest part about this game, knowing middle school is literally the worst) and is on his last days of summer. It's a pleasant surprise to see a subject like growing up and facing the darkness of the world tackled in an rpg horror game, where the usual story to these games generally tend to be about either very inaccurate portrayal of mental illness, sexual abuse or just supernatural things for the sake of it. I welcome the creativity, and I think there's lots of potential in the idea, granted it does not always feel fully utilized in this game.

This is the sequel to that one meme with the girl on the couch.

Let's start off with something a lot of MV games are really not good at - the visuals. It's not always the developer's fault, it's just hard to make anything that looks good with 48x48 tile sizes. The Last Summer is a fully parallaxed game that doesn't exactly look ugly, but isn't a particularly good looking game either. There's some good looking bits here and there, but a lot of the maps are what I'd call amateur parallax, where the developer uses parallax mapping because they think it would make their game look better when in truth you can pull off much better looking maps by just mapping normally. Macbeth kind of alternates with this. Some of the maps here are genuinely really good looking and could probably only be pulled off with parallax mapping. The cliffs in particular look really good. The big issue I see every beginner to parallax mapping make is with pathways and shadows, which I'm sorry to say The Last Summer falls into as well. None of the paths blend in particularly well with the grass, making them look way uglier than they would have with just normal mapping. My tip to Macbeth would be not to use the circle tool when making paths, but rather something with an unusual shape. I generally prefer to use acrylic brushes or watercolor brushes myself as they tend to make the pathing look more natural. Also make sure to keep your brush size large and spread out, as it makes the transition between grass and path much more smooth.

Probably the most visually impressive map in the game.

As for the shadows, it's a bit harder to explain how to improve them, but I think the ones in this game show that some practice is probably necessary on Macbeth's end. A lot of the shadows actually don't look that good or realistic. They always tend to look unnatural like they've been drawn on top, which is obviously the case, but at least there are ways to hide it better when you get more skilled at making them. The light effects are also kind of strange, with them mostly being white ovals that have been slightly blurred. Not exactly much of a great look.

Visual errors are extremely prominent throughout the game too. A lot of weirdly stretched tilesets, and I also managed to find a bunch of spots where the top of my sprite would clip through the treetops. Most tree shadows have weird shadows due to the fact that some of it is also a picture, while the rest is only on the parallax, making parts of the shadow strangely darker. I recommend not making the shadow over the player at all in this case.

A lot of the collissions are also very weird due to the parallaxing. There's some objects that you can't even go near because they're impassable despite being really far away, and the same actually happens with some trees behind which there's weird areas that are blocked off. The opposite is also true in that you can go closer to some objects than you probably should be able to. I really feel like the maps were not designed with the rpg maker grid in mind, but rather that was just an after thought when they were inserted into the engine.

The game also has what I believe to be some original art. It's not super impressive art or anything, but it's also not bad. I will say that it does fit the whole nineties aesthetic pretty well as the style is reminiscent of older anime series.

As for the music, I didn't really find anything that stuck out to me, so no comments on it. I did notice a few jarring audio changes here and there, and that could have been polished a bit better, but I don't mind it too much.

Why are the doors casting shadows? Doors don't do that.

The other big mixed bag here is the gameplay. While the gameplay itself is fine in that it follows your usual adventure game formula of picking up things and talking to people to progress plot, there's a lot of baffling choices here. For one, the walking speed is absolutely horrendous. You walk so slowly, and running really doesn't help at all. There's a bit somewhat near the middle where Mr Knight kinda starts to get creepy for the first time that you run away from him and you actually get faster, and this is actually a much, MUCH better speed that I would have preferred the entire game use. It lasts a while, but sadly you go back to your original speed during the dream-ish sequence at the school.

You also have to find 19 special items to unlock a bonus scene after the ending. This is marketed as an ending of its own on the gamepage, but I wouldn't really call it that. It's more like an extremely brief epilogue than another ending, so don't worry if you don't find them all. And you probably shouldn't, because finding them all is ridiculous. More than half of the hidden items are completely invisible due to being hidden behind trees. Once or twice, this was fine, and there's a few that have a few visible parts making them fairly well hidden but still possible to find, but it becomes seriously annoying when to get the majority of them you have to blindly stumble around behind trees until you run into one.

At least the game gives you a good sense of direction, and I never really found myself getting stuck. I appreciate this in a day and age where most rpg horror games leave you in the dark with no idea on what to do. You probably won't have any problems with getting stuck in this game.

Now let's move onto the thing that makes this game stand out from the average rpg horror, which is the story. The Last Summer is a psychological horror game, which has sadly become a genre filled with the same stupid plot twist of "you were insane and actually killed your family/lover" over and over. I'm happy to say that The Last Summer actually does a really good job at handling the psychological factors much better than the average horror game. Some of the ideas explored here are actually very interesting. Perversion is a fairly common theme in The Last Summer, both from the side of Timothy's parents and himself.

Timothy's mother is actually having in affair with Paul, a family friend. Not much of a unique plot, but I do like seeing this unfold from the eyes of a child who really doesn't understand it. It's handled well, with scenes like Paul asking Timothy if he's okay with him becoming his new father, and even Timothy walking in on him having sex with his mother. While it's never explicitly stated if it is an affair, it seems pretty obvious that it is. My initial theory upon meeting Paul for the first time was that he would be revealed to be Timothy's actual father or something.

One thing I appreciate about The Last Summer is that it doesn't spell things out for you and assume you're an idiot. Scenes of the afromentioned two characters under the spoiler tag are kept vague and cryptic. The game doesn't explain to you who Mr Knight or Anna is, as it shouldn't. You have to do a bit of thinking on your end to figure out what's actually going on. And I feel like this even fits the theme well since Timothy is, as already mentioned, not supposed to understand the circumstances going on around him.

I did see the developer making a comment about a prequel where they plan to explain the once again afromentioned relationship more, but I hope they decide not to follow through with it since, as I mentioned, the story works way better without it being spelled out for you like you're a baby. As for the Anna and Mr Knight situation:

As for as I understand, Mr Knight represents childhood while Anna represents adulthood. I don't think I've actually seen anyone complain about this, but it's never explained where either one came from. However, to someone complaining about that, I would tell them that you're obviously not meant to take the existance of either character literally. They're just visual projections of the things they represent and not actual living breathing human beings. Mr Knight is the part of Timothy that wants to keep him a child forever, stuck in fantasies of fighting dragons and witches. Anna, on the other hand, is trying to show Timothy that growing up isn't so bad after all. While things change, it's still possible to find hope to cling onto, and comfort that things will be okay. The symbolism here is done really well in a way I've not seen a lot of rpg horror games do.

I also really like how confusion of perversion in Timothy's life doesn't just come from Paul and his mother, but also himself. He's called a peeping tom at school and assumed to be a pervert, when in truth he has no idea what he's actually doing wrong. As someone who had literally no idea how sex worked as a child, and as such kept embarassing themselves over and over, I can actually relate to this subplot a lot.

Is this my excuse for a fun story time? It is! One of my friends in elementary school was once telling me and a few other friends about a ghost story she heard online about a ghost who raped a woman. I didn't know what the word rape meant at the time, but before she could finish the story, the bell rang and the lesson started. So after the lesson's end, while the teacher is packing up and is ready to leave, I shout at the top of my lungs, "come on, tell us about the rape!!!" and get a really dirty stare from pretty much everyone, teacher included. Anyway, personal trauma done, back to the game.

Sadly, the story is not perfect. While it has so much potential, it's actually ruined by dialogue that's not always perfect, a main character who is really hard to actually like, and perhaps the biggest offender of all, grammar, spelling or punctuation errors in literally every single sentence.

Now I'm happy to excuse developers who don't have perfect english, because I understand that it's not everyone's main language. Heck, it's not even mine, and I've probably made a good few english errors myself in this review. However, in a game, this can really, REALLY kill the immersion, especially when it's in literally every sentence. There's never proper punctuation, as the developer doesn't put a full stop at the end of the last sentence in each message box for some reason? Another huge annoyance here is how the text never actually reaches the end of the message box, which is a minor thing, but it's still really unpleasant to look at.

I don't know if this is a common occurance in all Macbeth games, but I read a review on their current project that it is, so I highly recommend that they seek the help of a proofreader for every future project. They obviously have the ability to write decent stories, so it's a shame to see them get ruined by error after error.

Another minor issue is how the game sometimes likes to spell things out for you right after they happen. This was most obvious for me in the scene with mom and Paul having sex, during which Timothy looks horrified and doesn't understand what they're doing, and then the screen turns black and Timothy mentions that he was horrified and did not know what they were doing. I know, Timothy, I literally just saw that.

I shit you not, this is an actual line from the game.

I think The Last Summer is a game that shows a lot of potential, but lacks the polish to be a great game. Bugs, visual glitches, english errors, weird mapping hijinks and small gameplay issues are all among things that ruined this game for me. Most of them might be small nitpicks, but they really do add up to a product that feels like it was released before it had time to be refined properly.

The Last Summer is probably worth a go if you're looking for an above average rpg horror story, just try to get used to the constant grammar errors and expect the writing to not always be up to par, but otherwise I'd love to see this game reach its full potential with the remake that the developer has mentioned in the comments.

Why is the menu window so big if you'RE NOT ACTUALLY USING MOST OF IT?

All in all, I give The Last Summer three and a half video game references out of five, and sincerely hope the developer manages to fix the glaring issues so that I can knock it up to 4+ stars for the remake.


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Thank you very much for your review Frogge!

As i've said, we are going to make a "remake" of this game for sure with improved mapping and graphics, more diversified gameplay (now we finally have a programmer onboard, he's the author of PSYCHE Locke!) and better dialogues.

We need an english proofreader for sure as i'm not perfect with this language, even if i can explain myself :D

If you want follow our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/KibouEntertainment) and our Twitter (https://twitter.com/KibouEntertainm) for constant updates!

Thanks again for your detailed review :) hope you will follow my future projects too!
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