Truly artistic Beautiful games are few and far between these days. We live in an age where high end video cards and poly count is the typical make or break for a games popularity. Luckily there are those handfuls of Indies that take time to relax and smell the roses when it comes to visuals and gameplay. Seasons After Fall is an absolutely beautiful and zen game from the opening scenes to the closing credits. This game has been painstakingly animated and crafted to give a unique take on what a puzzle platformer really can be. With a unique season changing system and some mind bending puzzles, Seasons offers up something a little different. So forget about your speed runs, multiplier combos, and kill count and enter the world of Seasons After Fall.
The nature of the story
At first glance, most people who watched the trailer for this game would say they get to play an adorable little fox on a big adventure, but that’s only half true. The story actually starts with the player as a mythical seed that protects the seasons and helps nature thrive during hard times. And of course you need some direction during the game which is delivered in the form of a mischievous voice that is trying to get you to gather the guardian spirits so they can perform “the ritual”. This voice never really goes too far into what this ritual is, but as a seed, it is your duty to assist in any way you can. Here is where you possess the body of the cute little fox so you now interactive with the environment. Your quest is now ahead; to collect the guardian spirits of the four seasons to complete the ritual before it is too late. But don’t run off too fast or you’ll miss the breath taking scenery.
A story book come to virtual life
If there is any take away from this game, it’s that the developer Swing Swing Submarine cares about visuals. The entire game is comprised of hand painted assets and animation that gives it a spectacular story book appearance and feel. As you progress through the game you unlock the ability to change seasons at will and the game does an excellent job of presenting these seasons not just with a pallet swap or particle effect here and there. The entire background, no matter where you are or what’s on screen changes in real time to a beautiful representation of Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter. This game has so many wonderful details to it; such as the motion of plants and mushrooms opening and closing during season transitions or the sense of space and freedom to run around in each world area of the game. The game has a great variety of biomes that take you from the summit of mountains to the very bottom of dark and spooky caves in search of guardian spirits. It’s kind of a shame with such beautiful scenery that their isn’t a little more life to it. The story has some stuff about animals being scared away and what not that covers the fact that the dev either could not fit a bunch of animated animals into the game, or maybe they were under a time/money crunch. Luckily the seasons feel alive enough to take the place of wild critters. But while you’re running around this amazing environment, just try not to get too lost along the way.
Things can get a little rocky
Fans of 2D platformers know that one ting typically sets a great game apart from the mediocre one and that thing is controls. Unfortunately for all of Seasons beauty and wonderment, it does have a few issues. The controls in the game aren’t bad, but they aren’t good either. You’ll find yourself missing jumps due to the jump distance and hit boxes having a bit of a mind of their own when it comes to where everything is actually located. And if you have to get a running start to make a jump, the sluggish turn animation can make jumping large distances from a small platform a test in patience. Luckily the games levels are fairly well balanced out between running free and frustrating platformer. A core gripe that I have with the game though is it can be a bit cryptic with its puzzles. I honestly love how some of the puzzles are laid out and the game does an amazing job of letting the player experiment using the seasons in interesting ways to change and effect the map. But with it being a puzzle game first and foremost, puzzles typically only have one way to be solved and a few of the later game ending puzzles are very confusing, but could have been easily cleared up with some form of instruction about input via your powers or map placement. A lot of the end game puzzles and sequences are typically just strange messages that just say go to X area and look for an altar. But it forgets to mention, why you’re looking for it and what, if anything to do when you get there. I understand that hand holding defeats the purpose of puzzles in the first place, but I found myself most of the time wandering into the area and randomly stumbling upon weird items that turned out to have something to do with the altar. And most of these altars have different variations, locations, and methods to collecting and solving the puzzle. For example early in the game a small cut scene plays that shows a plant grow which will eventually lead you to a new area of the map when solving one of these puzzles. The problem being that it shows you the sequence without referencing where it is or what it does and it happens so early in the game that I had completely forgotten it was there by time it actually became useful. On that note, a map would have been a great addition to the game as navigating the world can be a bit cumbersome depending on where you’re trying to go and what items you’re looking for. So the controls leave a lit to be desired and the puzzles can be very hit and miss, but it’s just a wonder to play.
A lot of charm in a little game
Even though the game does not have the tightest controls or the best puzzles, if you’re a fan of puzzle platformer games and want to play something without guns, you should definitely check this one out. The visuals and experience of the game ultimately outweigh the mild frustration you may find during some of the platform heavy parts. The season based magic and unique puzzles are a fun and different way to experience a platfomer game in a genre flooded with pixel art crafting and zombie shooting.