The Last Campfire: A Review

The Last Campfire: A Review

The Last Campfire: A Review

Posted by CJ Wilson

27 Jan, 2021


The temple is dimly lit, with rays of sunlight slanting over a tiled bridge in front of you. On the other side sits a Forlorn. It’s shaped like you: an Ember, turned to stone by despair and hopelessness. You’ve saved others, returning their flame of hope and giving them the strength to continue, but merely making it to this one has eluded you. 

The tiles ahead are a mix of frogs and turtles. One wrong step, and you’ll fall. You’ve been here before, but you left when you couldn’t find the correct route. But you think you know the answer now. There was a pattern on the door outside that you can mimic by making the right moves.

It works! You touch the Forlorn and enter the puzzle, another world. A girl’s voice tells you what this Forlorn is thinking. You realize his hope was sapped by his fear over the uncertainty of the future. Sure enough, the puzzle before you is made up of mirrors and light along an obscured path. It’s a deceptively simple puzzle compared to others. You drag some chained mirrors in the right patterns—making sure they come from the right direction—to get the light around the walls that blocked this Forlorn’s path, illuminating the future and restoring hope.

But it’s not revealing the future that restored hope to this Forlorn; it was serving as an example of someone unafraid to forge into the unknown.

Now keep moving. There are more Forlorn to save.

This is a good example of an average puzzle in The Last Campfire, a 2020 adventure/puzzle game by indie developer Hello Games. There’s a lot to like about the game. It’s a short game (maybe five hours) about hope and despair with a cute aesthetic and a simple yet fun and rewarding puzzle system. But what really stands out is its story. Driven by its charming narrator, The Last Campfire is an incredible call for hope even in the darkest of times. Let’s break it down piece by piece.


Simply roaming around the world of The Last Campfire is fun. Several distinct areas are pleasant to explore, with challenges created by both the adventure puzzles that block your path and the logic puzzles contained in each Forlorn you’re meant to save. The puzzle system isn’t complex or difficult to grasp, but the developers do a lot with it, providing endless variety and introducing new elements that keep it fresh.


The art of The Last Campfire is adorable, and I can’t decide whether the world or the characters are more charming. It’s got an incredibly natural, enchanted forest vibe about it, with a touch of ancient magical ruin. While the main Ember design reminds me of a cutesy Journey character, the others—like the giant frog and the old man in the fish hat—make for a cast that’s strangely memorable despite how little screen time they have. And no matter how cute the aesthetic is, it is never cloying.


The story is where this game really shines. Not because of the plot or the characters but because of the message, tone and emotion. In many ways, The Last Campfire feels like the game we all desperately need right now. It’s about hope—the many ways we lose it, the spirals we go through, the way that a single person can restore hope and the way that a single spark of hope can carry an entire people forward.

I’d like to draw special attention to the Forlorn. The most challenging puzzles are in the form of the Forlorn—Embers who have given up hope in their journey and turned to stone. The narrator gives somewhat enigmatic speeches during each of these puzzles, but between the puzzles and the words you get a sense of what, exactly, caused a particular Ember to give up hope and how you can help him or her find it again.

The execution wasn’t always perfect, but the fact that it was so noticeable is brilliant in and of itself.


I prefer music that grabs me and makes me want to look it up on YouTube later. The Last Campfire didn’t give me that, but what it did give me was ambient tunes that pulled me into the game and set the mood. Sometimes that’s all you need.

All in All

The Last Campfire is a fantastic indie puzzler that’s well worth the purchase price. It’s a short, cute game whose brevity keeps it from overstaying its welcome. But most of all, it’ll make you feel something. Not something cheap or ephemeral but something real and lasting. If you’re looking for high-octane action, this isn’t it, but it’s a great example of why [indie games][Link to the article about indie games] have such a strong following.

I highly recommend it.


About Author

CJ Wilson

CJ Wilson is a freelance writer and novelist specializing in game writing, journalism, and non-profit work. His writing expertise includes gaming, law, nature/environmental writing, literature, and travel. As a novelist, he specializes in character-focused fantasy and sci-fi.

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