The Last Campfire, the latest from No Man’s Sky studio Hello Games, is a perfect game for unwinding. There’s no urgency to hero Ember’s journey through the mysterious world they’re trapped in at the beginning of the story. It’s about wandering lush fantasy environments and solving puzzles as lovely music plays. Push some blocks, light some fires, lead some pigs, and chill.
While Hello Games has made a big name for itself through No Man’s Sky, the small team behind The Last Campfire is better known for WiiWare launch game LostWinds and its sequel, LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias.
It’s easy to see the influence of LostWinds in The Last Campfire. Though the latest game is a 3D platformer instead of a 2.5D affair, the visual style is very similar, from the short, stumpy protagonist to extensive use of symbols and icons. If Hello Games told me The Last Campfire took place in the same world as its predecessors, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
But The Last Campfire is its own little thing. The game opens with Ember getting separated from their friends, losing their way thanks to a distracting blue bird (maybe they were checking Twitter). Ember finds themselves in a mysterious land filled with characters called Forlorn, statue-like souls who have given up hope. To save them, Ember must solve the puzzles lurking within them.
Here we see Ember encountering a moss-covered Forlorn. When our hero inspects it, we’re transported into their puzzle space.
Puzzles are self-contained. There’s no timer. There’s no limit to the number of tries one gets to complete them. Talking to the Forlorn at the beginning resets the puzzle, should things get complicated. I’ve spent a lot of time rubbing my chin and staring at the screen over the past couple of days.
This particular puzzle, “Abundance,” requires Ember use their magical horn (found earlier in the adventure) to manipulate statues hooked to platforms. There are three sets of platforms, two in the water and one on the surface. The surface platforms can travel over the water platforms, so the player is tasked with figuring out how to manage all three to gain access to a cage containing the Forlorn’s lost hope. This is the puzzle I am on as I write these impressions. I am not doing well, but I feel like I am getting close.
The world of The Last Campfire is made up of a series of areas, each situated around a campfire. Each area has a number of Forlorn to find and free before the next opens. Along with the Forlorn puzzles, Ember must also solve puzzles in the overland. They might need to set some brush on fire to reveal a cave, for example. Or pick some fruit to lead a pig to a wheel that operates a lift. Or find some lentils so a giant turtle can cook some soup for the massive lord of the pigs.
The lord of the pigs is adorable. The little crabs that hide whenever Ember gets close? Also adorable. The narrator, a woman with a soft, sing-songy voice with an accent I can’t quite place? She’s a pure delight, delivering lines about piggies’ tootsies in a most endearing way.
I feel a bit like the lord of the pigs playing The Last Campfire. Just sitting here content in my muck as minions deliver me clever puzzle after clever puzzle and a sweet voice urges me on. I push barrels to create new paths and roll blocks, careful not to let their windy vent faces blow out braziers. I slide down chutes into muddy puddles, or at least Ember does as I watch, which is the next best thing. As a lover of relaxing puzzle games, I am a pig in … pig stuff.
The Last Campfire is now available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It’s also free to Apple Arcade subscribers, and it works quite well on my iPad with touch controls.