Turn, Turn, Turn
When I look back at the last puzzle platformer I got really into I can only think of The Lost Vikings and that isn’t a bad thing. Back when the Amiga CD32 was still a thing, I had a brief obsession with this game. After that flame died, I never really returned to the genre. There have been many games in this vein over the years, and there needs to be one heck of a good reason for me to get drawn to one of them. Something like a sense of wonder. Sure, The Lost Vikings was fun and goofy, but there was still that weird feeling that you never knew what was coming next.
While I was initially excited thinking that Seasons after Fall was a barber shop quartet and that style of music was making a comeback, my initial disappointment gave way to interest in the game. I’ll be honest, it might be because it had a Fox in the game. I’m a sucker for cute critters.
I’m also a sucker for interesting worlds. If it is all well drawn and steeped in a strange mystic mythos we slowly uncover through our journey, then your game has gone a long way to grabbing me.
Developed by Swing Swing Submarine and published by Focus Interactive, Seasons is available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC at the price of 14.99 USD. The game has a fantastic design that sets a high bar for others in the same genre.
A Platform of Change
This is not a long game. This is a game that you play in the course of maybe six hours, if you are taking your time. And let me tell you, as I get older, you can appreciate a game like that. In many modern games we are very politely asked to ignore major problems – simply because “Look how big it is!” or “Look how long it takes to finish!” So while I do confess that I have a great love for a large world that I can get lost in, largeness and length are never an excuse for poor core mechanics or glitch-ridden controls – neither of which are problems with Seasons after Fall.
This game is more evidence for one of my pet theories: That large portions of this generation of gamers love nothing more than to be transplanted in to the bodies of furry woodland creatures. In Seasons you take on the role of an entity that decides to inhabit the body of a fox. The first part of the game is getting accustomed to the controls – but more importantly gaining the powers of the four seasons. By the time the second act starts, you are a lean mean season changing machine. You may find yourself wondering why.
The puzzles of the game focus on interacting with the brilliantly designed setting. As the seasons change the environment changes also. Mushrooms bloom, trees grow, bugs come out, waters rise and fall, and winds blow. All of these allow you to hop, scamper, and crawl your way to the next section of the enchanted forest. This is all done through the gentle guidance of various spirits you run across, whose motives are not always clear.
Getting a handle on the season changing mechanics is the most important aspect of the game. You may find yourself leaping and not able to make that jump, but realize there is a geyser of water right below you. Channel the power of the seasons, causing time to pause briefly as you select winter. Then all of a sudden the water freezes and you have a little platform that will save you from needing to go all the way back. The game is full of these little things. As far as central conceits in puzzle-platformers go, it’s not half bad (in my admittedly limited experience).
Even better, the game’s puzzles are very much part of the set and story, and not roadblocks to interesting content.
Honestly, when you sit and look at it, this game has more in common with old Hidden Object or Point and Click Adventure games than you might realize. Knowing how to execute your powers is simple, as are the jumping and directional controls, so changing the seasons is the hardest of the mechanics to make use of. And considering that it is just holding a button and selecting a corresponding season, that isn’t saying much. No, the real challenge of the game is found in the player’s ability to focus and pay attention, and yes, commit a variety of things to memory.
You need to be able to recognize how plants, terrain, and other set pieces react to the variety of seasons. There are a lot of moving parts here and they flow together smoothly, but it requires dedication to explore and find out what does which in this wonderful forested land. And that is where another aspect of the game is laid out clearly. This little fox jaunt has a story to tell. A story and a lovingly crafted setting to explore.
An exploration game in a very real sense, Seasons rewards players who interact with the environment and remember how those interactions can be used to help move you along. I spent a lot of time running around, leaping in the air, yipping at this and that, trying to see if different things would have different results in different seasons. Each puzzle was challenging but not insurmountable. I never once felt frustrated at the game, and for a puzzle game that makes you creep along and poke every object, then cycle through seasons to figure out what they all do – that is kind of saying something.
Listen and Look
Over and over again, you will see this game rightly praised for its excellent graphics. Set in a mysterious magical forest, this world is lovingly hand painted. All creature designs blend in well with the backdrop, and each critter you meet is very memorable. There are no highlighted interactive objects that mar the beauty of this game. All indications of points of interest are done in a setting appropriate way, and part of the game is understanding the language of the art – and what it is directing you to do.
The background music is done by a string quartet (not barbershop – but still good, I suppose) and with dialogue being sparse in Seasons – we rely heavily on it to inform the mood. Many times I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous, despite an inability to die, just because the music tone changed. No longer was I gleefully frolicking, I was suddenly running and skittish. To me, this means the music is doing it’s job.
A Breath of Fresh Air
This is a short game and it is a short review. Seasons sets out to be and do one thing, it doesn’t need to pad or boast about massive playtime or replayability. There are some that may consider the cost of the game a bit high for the amount of entertainment you get from it, but I would disagree with those people. You are not just buying a puzzle platformer here, this is a game that really starts blurring the idea of games being art.
I honestly haven’t enjoyed a game of such a short length, and felt satisfied with my time with it, since the shocking hit that was Portal. This is a simple game that is executed very well. I would be happy to have this on any platform, and consider it a great addition to my personal collection of games. Honestly, after so many games with time limits and hard challenge curves, it was nice to play a relaxing puzzle game. And it is certainty easier to set up than my mahjong tiles.
Final Score 9/10
Review by Old Man Mordaith aka Joshua Smith
Edited by Jesse Roberts
This game was received for free as a review copy.