The Last Sky Review — The Long Journey Home
I take a journey through the tormented mind of Jake as he overcomes the guilt and trauma he has had to struggle with since his time in the war and try to help his nightmares come to an end.
Over the course of recent years, game developers have become a lot more open to the idea of tackling mental health issues within the games they create. This willingness can sometimes be either hit or miss due to a lack of information or empathy on the said condition. Thankfully, it’s being talked about more, which will always be great news for society as a whole. The Last Sky by Little Guy Games aims to approach the traumatic anxiety disorder, PTSD, which is wrapped around an atmospheric, puzzle/platforming game where we see the internal struggles of a retired air force pilot Jake.
I always find the first few moments of a game the most compelling. So, finding an old man standing in a dimly light room surrounded by lots of curious objects is most certainly a good start. This elderly gentleman, with his large grey mustache and old air force forage cap, is Jake – a retired air force pilot suffering from the effects of PTSD due to the distressing and raw memories he has from his time in the war.
It soon comes to light that Jake is trapped in this metaphorical room which lays in the deepest part of his tormented mind. As you start to explore this space, some light puzzle elements appear, from finding keys to locked compartments to piecing together an old childhood toy airplane. Within the many items you can interact with, I found the old pictures of Jake’s past really endearing. Players get a taste of who Jake was by clicking onto the worn black and white photographs while the old man narrates his memories of that time.
Another fascinating aspect of this “room” is the books found on one of the shelves you can pick up and open. Many are based on philosophy, and ancient techniques on how one can better themselves. This intertwines with Jake’s narrative on his endeavor to heal himself of past and present pain. I took some time after completing the game to look up one of the authors Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher. They wrote about psychological revolution, the nature of mind, human relationships, and bringing about a radical change in society. I found this nugget of real-life information encapsulated within a game a wonderful, and educational touch that tied in with the subject this game is trying to push.
Throughout The Last Sky, Jake experiences time jumping – one moment he’s a 70-year-old man, and the next, the player is taken back to his childhood. These flashbacks are on trend with PTSD, which gives the player a better understanding of what Jake faces in his daily struggles. Thankfully, not too far into the game, you are exposed to The Last Sky’s platforming elements in which Jake is holding a lamp. Scattered around the area are small lights that you catch in your lamp, allowing you to progress onto the next stage by inserting the gathered light particles into a holder to open a door. Getting from one area to another is pretty straight forward. Similar to the lights you collect, there are colored lights you jump onto that shoot you to where you need to go.
As simple as this sounds, some focus and fast reflexes are needed because as you collect these beads of lights, you only have a certain amount of time before it dies out. If you’re not fast enough to reach the next door, you must suffer the consequences of having to start over. I found the movement controls satisfying, fluid, and easy to navigate which is important when it comes to platforming sequences. My only hesitation is how dark the first area’s environment was, even with my display quality set to high. Although, the flashes of neon structures did somewhat help to break up the murkiness, and in later stages, the light quality improved quite a lot.
A part of The Last Sky I found quite strange is Jake’s encounter with a shaman who guides him through his journey, and offers him advice. It’s not necessarily the idea that a shaman shouldn’t be included because it does add an extra layer to the storyline. Rather, how realistic or helpful this added feature is for somebody who plays this game and suffers from PTSD. I would have liked to have seen something a little more practical and would give some real-life help that the player could take away with them. I mean, not everyone has a shaman on hand. In saying that, the medicine man did offer a few words of wisdom towards the end of the game, but nothing that could be seen as beneficial.
The Last Sky dances around the subject of PTSD without fully explaining what this condition is at any stage. So, players who don’t know a lot about this disorder are probably left to Google it for themselves. It does portray a good basic understanding – once you know what you’re dealing with – and it does convey the trauma and isolation connected to it well. The cinematic scenes throughout are thought-provoking and beautifully crafted with just the right amount of emotional impact to keep you invested. But due to its short two-hour playtime, The Last Sky feels a little rushed at the end where more could have been done to continue Jack’s journey with more depth and choices.
For players who don’t have a lot of time to invest in a long game and who also enjoy experiencing the journey of a tormented mind, The Last Sky has much to offer. The fact that it wasn’t as thorough as I would have liked minimizes its true potential. Since this title is currently in early access on Steam, my hope is that the developers will include more branching story paths that become more personal; not only to Jake but to the player’s experience as a whole. With further work, it could also provide a deeper and boarder understanding of the complex mental health condition of PTSD.