Seasons After Fall Review
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Swing Swing Submarine/Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed)
Seasons After Fall is a beautiful puzzle game in the guise of a platformer. Whilst originally looking like any 2D sidescrolling action game, the paintlike art style, string quartet music, and lack of death options prove that this is much more an intellectual game, where your goal is to traverse the environment and slowly uncover and then solve puzzles to make it to the end of the story to determine what you are and how you can help the world around you.
As you, the "little seed," find your way into existence, you don't know much. You run across a friend who pleads for your help. Soon after, a little fox finds it's way to you, and your seed of energy is bonded with the fox to help you on your journey. The game begins as you seek out the four Guardians of the Seasons to gain their powers. Things quickly begin to become more than they seem, and once you meet all four Guardians is when the real story begins.
Your little fox slowly gains the power to control the four seasons at will. A simple button combination will cause the season to suddenly change. Aesthetically, the scene changes, but it also opens up new platform options. Water will freeze, creating a way to trek across a lake, or bring new platforms from bubbling springs, and spring will cause plants to bud and flower. Trees can spread their leaves and allow you to climb higher. As time goes on, you will spend seconds in certain seasons, as you have to turn to spring which causes an erupting fountain of water to jet higher than it would in summer before swapping to winter to freeze it over, and so forth. Learning the habits of each platform in each season is tantamount to progress.
The game is presented beautifully. Voiced characters sound very genuine. As the story morphs from what originally sounds like a simple little adventure into something more emotional, the voices show a dedication to sharing the story in an honest way. The graphics look painted and beautiful. It feels like you've stepped into a constantly morphing painting, and every season change shows a beautiful attention to detail. The music, crafted and recorded by a string quartet, further elevates the artistic quality of the game. Playing the game is a joy on the eyes and ears.
From a gameplay perspective, it feels like a light MetroidVania. As you progress and unlock more powers, you find yourself able to access new areas. Once you are fully stocked with all four seasons, more magical events happen allowing you to reach new areas in the same four worlds. As time goes on, you slowly delve deeper into each world, working toward a final goal (which is a bit of a spoiler in itself from starting the game cold turkey, so I won't go deep into this here).
A few times, I felt myself getting a bit frustrated at the hint structure. Once or twice a single audio statement was made that told me where to go next. Had I not been paying attention, I could easily be lost until I stumbled in the right direction. Other times, the screen would fade to black and show me another area where something changed. I may not remember exactly where that particular platform was, leading to more of a puzzle in finding where I was supposed to go. While it's better for the sake of puzzles, each "stone" you unlock partway through the game requires a different solution, meaning you spend a good chunk of time simply figuring out what you are supposed to do. If you don't mind sleuthing about, this game is right up your alley, but it does NOT hold your hand at all, and missing a lead can set you back as you hunt for where you're supposed to be going.
Controls are tight, though sometimes I couldn't hit a jump right due to my little fox being turned the wrong way. It wasn't too much of a hassle, but it did annoy me a couple of times. What I did find, though, was that there's a much better control option they don't tell you of. In order to change seasons, you are to hold down a shoulder button and use your moving left analog stick to select up, down, left, or right to choose your season. In an accidental bump, I found out that the right analog stick will directly do this, preventing the extra button press and having to change your thought pattern on the left stick. It allowed me to flow much faster, and I saw absolutely no mention of this in the controller option screen. This is definitely worth pointing out.
Seasons After Fall is a gorgeous game. It is a joy to view and listen to, and I applaud the designers for creating such a beautiful and memorable world. The music is beautiful. I just wish there was more of it, as once the piece is over, it often dies down and allows the ambience of nature to be the sound you hear. While beautiful in it's own right, I really wish I could hear more of the wondrous string quartet. The storyline starts simple, but develops a strong bond that when the plot changes, draws you in and holds you through the finish. The platforming is fun, but suffers from the traditional MetroidVania tropes, forcing you through repetition of the same areas and offering cryptic puzzles that can be impossible if you miss a hint or don't have a certain power yet. A simple map or reminder of where you should go in the pause menu would be a wondrous boon, without loss of immersion. Overall, Seasons After Fall is a great game for people looking for a cerebral game with a wondrous art and care that you can see was infused into it's crafting.
-So Freaking Beautiful
-Storyline that draws you in
-Traditional MetroidVania repetition with no "challenge" to the enemies
-Short, with minimal "powers" to obtain
-Puzzles can be cryptic: it takes time to figure out what to even do before you start manipulating the puzzle
Thank you so much to Swing Swing Submarine for developing such a beautiful game and Focus Home Interactive for providing a copy of the Xbox One edition of the game for review.