The Last Campfire Review
At the beginning of “The Last Campfire,” I had a nagging sense of deja vu. The main character — Ember — looks like he’d belong in the 2012 indie megahit “Journey,” while the art style, storybook narration and music feel like an indie game playbook.
Cutesy artwork; bright colors; melancholy story; understated soundtrack; mysterious narrative; and so-on. In some ways, it’s hard to believe this game comes from the same studio that created No Man’s Sky and Joe Danger.
But then you get to the first campfire, you meet the ghost and you go around and meet other embers. The characters are in stone, and as you approach them you unlock a small puzzle that will wake the ember up and give them hope. These brief puzzles were when I first started to really like “The Last Campfire.”
Then you meet a big, hungry frog; and a fisherman with a fish as a hat; and later some weird birds and a giant pig and a turtle who is a chef. I grew quickly to adore the storybook narration, the quirky characters and the overall gameplay loop.
At its gameplay core, “The Last Campfire” is an environmental exploration puzzler (is that a genre?). You traverse around the small open area, poking around for secret pathways and looking for other embers to wake up. If you come across a locked gate, there’s a key somewhere else to find; 4 random patches of dirt by a door, and there are statues somewhere nearby to move.
The puzzles that you solve to give hope back to each forlorn require problem solving and thought, but all of them are solvable if you pay attention to environmental clues.
The forlorn embers are what give the game its sense of melancholy. Essentially, all of the embers are trying to pass through some sort of purgatory. When they give up and lose hope, they turn forlorn and into stone. The player character is helping all of the other embers to move along.
“The Last Campfire” is a special game and well worth playing. It takes some simple mechanics, wraps it up in an endearing package and uses superb writing to make you care about a bunch of mute characters. My driving motivation was to help as many embers to wake up and move onward as possible.
Review by GamesReviews contributor, Seth Roy. Code was provided by Hello Games and played on an Xbox One X.