Review: Seasons After Fall (2016)

A meditative trip into a fairy tale world that is as artistic as it is challenging.

Seasons After Fall, developed by Swing Swing Submarine, is a new 2D plat-former/puzzle game with an excellent balance of riveting gameplay and meditative story-telling, all wrapped up in one beautiful little package.

It tells the story of a newly born spirit, brought into the world to complete a specific task; perform the Ritual of Seasons to save the life of the forest. As this spirit, you’ll need to gather the power of the four seasons to complete the challenge laid out before you. These powers give you the potential to change the seasons at will, allowing you to traverse new areas as your abilities grow. From there the story takes a few twists and turns that I won’t spoil for you here, but I will say it is a story that is definitely unexpected.

Seasons After Fall starts out in an appropriately childish way to get you acclimatised to the world and to introduce you to your new abilities. Its art and story seem to be pulled right from a storybook, offering beautiful vistas and character designs that bring up an old feeling of childhood wonder. You soon meet a tiny, wild fox, a cute creature that you possess (nicely) in order to complete your task of saving the forest. The animation of the fox and the other creatures you meet along the way are endearingly simple. This art style, combined with the orchestral yet playful backing music, does well to drive the feeling that this is a living fantasy world and that you are simply along for the ride.

Speaking of the sound design; this is truly one of the best audio experiences that I’ve encountered in a while. The soft, classical instrumentals fade in and out and bring out the beauty in the rest of the game when in full force. On the other end of the spectrum, when the musical backing is all but gone, the sounds of the forest are still enough to keep you enveloped in the world. As the seasons change, so do the environments and with them, the soundscapes. The icy silence of winter contrasts nicely against the world coming alive in the summer.

As the story slowly dips you into the world before it takes off, so does the difficulty as it guides you, introducing you to each type of puzzle one at a time before ramping up and throwing more and more complex challenges at you. This learning curve continues to harbour a healthy balance throughout the game, giving you just enough challenge to keep you interested without making you want to give up on it. Admittedly though, there are times when you will find yourself at an impasse that is especially difficult to wrap your head around.

Controlling the seasons as a gameplay mechanic is, thankfully, just as interesting as it sounds. With the flick of the control stick, you can shift the game world from summer to spring. The obstacles are based on the environment around you, and just like in life, the environment changes through the seasons, unlocking pathways or setting up new platforms to get you to your destination.

The first power that you obtain in the game is that of Winter, a season that tends to freeze water around you. You can use this ability to create surfaces and platforms to reach new heights. Though it may seem simple at first, the gradual addition of new seasons provide twists to this power that may not seem evident at first, and will require careful planning and tactical switching between seasons to conquer the new challenges.

This new entry brings to mind the concept of “games as art,” the idea that playing a video game can be on the same level of experience as examining the Mona Lisa. I’d like to believe this is possible, as evidenced by games of this caliber. After all the shooting and explosions that the industry seems to be wrapped in these days, this is definitely a reprieve worth your time.

All in all, the powerful themes provided by the visual and audial design, backed by an intriguing story and addictive gameplay have created a gem of a game, one that I hope receives the recognition that it deserves.

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