Capsule Review: The Last Campfire

A chill and moody puzzler with themes of losing and regaining hope.

A puzzle game with an atmospheric story. Explore a mysterious wilderness solving puzzles to progress and to restore hope to those who have lost it.

Structurally, the game is semi-linear hub-and-spokes. Move forward through the wilderness solving some environmental puzzles until you reach a campfire hub. In the areas near the campfire are several “forlorn”–others like who you have lost their way. They can be reached in various orders and sometimes require solving some puzzles to do so, and when you reach each one you can restore their hope by solving an isolated puzzle. Once you’ve saved enough, you can move on and proceed toward the next hub.

Puzzles are handled through simple controls. You walk around and have a context-sensitive interact button used for picking things up or putting them down, pushing or pulling large objects, or flipping levers. Partway through you get another button used to trigger an ability to move certain objects around the environment. These simple mechanics are added together to create a wide range of puzzles including inventory puzzles and variations on block sliding, light-redirecting, and other spatial reasoning challenges.

Several features are in place to prevent you from getting stuck. There are always more forlorn than are needed to proceed, so if any specific puzzles stump you you can skip them (and if desired, return to them from a menu later). There’s no map, but areas are simple enough that even with my terrible sense of direction I never got lost–and at each campfire you can get hints pointing you to an unsaved forlorn, so people with even less direction than me can get some help. There’s also an “explore mode” that removes most of the puzzles and leaves you free to soak up the narrative without roadblocks.

That narrative is more evocative than explicit, but works well as a mood piece. The details of the setting are left mostly unexplained, but the thematic exploration of the role of hope in a fundamentally meaningless world is archetypal and comes through strongly (even if there isn’t a clear message in the end besides “have you considered not losing hope?"). It helps that both the visuals and music are lovely.

I really enjoyed my first couple hours with the game, though for me the pleasure did wane a bit when I saw how vague the storytelling was. I still liked the game enough to finish it, though I had no particular interest in going back for extra optional puzzles that didn’t feed into the narrative or achievements.

I Stopped Playing When: After about five and a half hours, I finished the game having saved every forlorn (which grants 100% of achievements) but had not found all diary fragments or solved all optional puzzles.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.