|Developer||Swing Swing Submarine|
|Publisher||Focus Home Interactive|
|Release Date||September 2, 2016|
Disclaimer: Review code provided
Seasons After Fall is an absolutely beautiful game. It’s the first thing that hits you when you start playing (aside from the default language being French). It’s got a hand-drawn art style that looks, quite frankly, amazing. The game itself casts you as a spirit possessing a wild fox. Sent on a journey across a land where something seems to be wrong, you’re tasked with finding the four Guardians of the Forest to gain their powers and complete the Ritual of the Seasons.
What does that mean by gaining their powers? Control over the seasons, of course. There are four Guardians that you need to find, a task which makes up the first third or so of the game. By finding them through a series of puzzle platforming challenges, you’ll be granted their powers and gradually given the ability to change the season at will. Once you’ve met all of them you’ll be able to switch between winter, spring, summer and fall whenever you like.
Honestly, the first part of Seasons After Fall isn’t all that compelling. It introduces you to this strange world well enough, but because you don’t have access to the full suite of seasons, the puzzles and platforming are a little basic and the story is quite straightforward and a little boring. It’s only after you’ve collected all of the seasons that the game really opens up in just about every conceivable way. So much like that first hour or so I’m going to power past it and get to the good stuff.
The main reason that Seasons After Fall’s first hour or so doesn’t quite hold up (especially compared to the rest of the game) is in its basic platforming. The controls always felt a little off – never to the point that the game is difficult or frustrating to play, but just enough to make the little fox protagonist feel clumsy. Part of this is down to the difference between the speed of the fox when it’s on the ground versus in the air. On foot, the fox is quite slow to turn and slow to start moving. When jumping the fox is extremely nimble and you’re able to change directions quite quickly.
It makes precision platforming a little shaky, as you’re never really all that confident that you’re going to end up where you’re trying to get to. This isn’t a huge problem, however, because Seasons After Fall doesn’t demand precision and isn’t out to punish you for mistakes. If you miss a jump, odds are you’ll be able to get back to where you were quickly enough. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is noticeable and worth mentioning. Once you have a full set of season-altering powers at your disposal, however, Seasons After Fall opens up and becomes a really immersive, relaxing and enjoyable experience.
For starters changing the season dramatically alters the look of the environment. The game already looks beautiful, but changing from one season to the next is a wonderful experience just from an aesthetic standpoint. The game makes excellent use of colour, creating vivid and lush landscapes. Each season has its own colour palette – fall sees everything baked in an orange glow, whereas winter switches that out for a dark blue hue and a world covered in snow. Changing the seasons isn’t just for aesthetic reasons, however, it also has a big impact on the world around you.
This is where the main mechanics of Seasons After Fall’s excellent puzzles come into play. Flipping between seasons causes all manner of changes to objects in the environment, both big and small. All of the puzzles here generally have you figuring out what season or combination of seasons are required for you to move on to the next area. For example, you can’t jump out of water that you’re swimming in. But the water in winter is frozen, which means that you can simply run across it instead of swimming through it.
Seasons After Fall features some extremely well-crafted puzzles, which I won’t spoil here of course. They start off fairly simple and grow in complexity as the game goes on. The way they’re built around the core season-changing gameplay mechanics is extremely impressive, occasionally leaving me in simple admiration of the craftsmanship involved in creating them. A puzzle involving fireflies towards the latter part of the game is a particular highlight.
It’s all built into an incredibly immersive world, drawing you in by looking and sounding absolutely fantastic. I’ve already gushed over how good the hand-drawn art looks (amazing) and Seasons After Fall combines this with impeccable sound design to create a really enchanting world. The soundtrack, performed entirely by a string quartet, adds a lot to the feel of the world. Each season also has its own music and ambient noise to really help create a sense that you’re exploring a living world. It’s a world that’s easy to get lost in – both for good and bad reasons.
The bad comes from a complete lack of a map or any kind of directional hints. When you need to go somewhere the game shows you where it is, but unless it’s next to a distinctive landmark, you’re kind of just left shrugging your shoulders and wandering about until you find what you’re looking for. Similarly, the story feels quite confusing most of the time. It all comes together towards the end, but for a large portion of the running time, Seasons After Fall’s narrative is something you just have to nod along with and feign understanding towards.
Seasons After Fall is a beautiful game. It should be celebrated if for no other reason than its hand-drawn visuals are stunning and each of the four seasons are visually distinct and fantastic to look at. Luckily behind the graphics lies a pretty great puzzle platformer. Although the basic platforming can feel somewhat clumsy and the game could do with being a bit less vague in letting you know where to go, it’s a solid game. The puzzles are excellent, especially as the game goes on and they grow more and more complex. The visuals combine with the sound design to create an incredibly immersive world. Even when the story has you feeling a bit confused, you’ll just be happy to have an excuse to keep exploring.
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