At first glance of Seasons After Fall I couldn’t help but to think of ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’. The games seemed to share so many similarities with their stunning aesthetic styles and familiar platforming gameplay, though Seasons After Fall seemed to be a bit more ‘under the radar’ without the might of Microsoft behind it. It’s a real shame – it’s one of the most beautiful and enjoyable puzzle platformer I’ve played.
Seasons After Fall actually starts off a little oddly, with you taking on the role of a glowing orb as it travels upwards through a pit of interweaving roots and vines. It’s actually a little underwhelming to begin with, but once you hit above ground and get absorbed into the beautiful world, you realise that the game is going to offer something a little special.
Whilst you begin as an orb, you’re actually given a gift that allows you to take on a different form – a small fox. Playing as the fox, you help a magical seed that wants to perform something known as the ‘Ritual of Seasons’ by obtaining a set of fragments from the ‘Guardians’ of the forest. It’s all fairly simply to begin with, but it’s not long before proceedings become a lot more complicated and the story of Seasons After Fall starts to kick off.
The most obvious thing you’ll notice about Seasons After Fall is just how stunning the game is. The hand-painted style really brings the enchanting world to life, with your surroundings simply exploding with colour. There’s a constant overlay of trees and plant-life too, bringing a real sense of depth to the 2D world.
One of the main gameplay mechanics is the changing of seasons (more on that later), so you’re constantly seeing the environment change around you. The glowing oranges of fall, the vibrant blues of winter, the showers and light colours of spring, or the enchanting greenery of Summer – whatever season you’re venturing through, everything always looks absolutely mesmerising.
There are plenty of different areas to explore too. You start of in a forest, but it’s not long before you’re running through fields, across frozen lakes, among tree tops, and even venturing across the peak of a mountain. Everywhere you go is packed with detail too – there wasn’t a single area in the game that didn’t feel finely crafted, whilst the lighting effects were impressive with the sun pouring through the trees and across the forest. I really felt like I was exploring this living, breathing world.
Exploration is fantastic too, with the game always offering multiple ways to reach your goal. One of the earlier environments in the game offered the option to reach an area by either running through the tall grass, atop of trees or through small burrows. Whilst taking different routes will help you uncover different locations, the fact they also often took you to the same place was appreciated and gave a greater sense of realism to the game world.
The creatures of the game look great and are animated fluidly too. Take the fox for example, whose animalistic strides flow perfectly and capture the essence of the creature. There are cute minor details too, such as the fox’s tail wagging when he’s stationary and him cleaning his paws if you leave him for too long – it’s a little bit adorable.
The bulk of Seasons After Fall’s gameplay is spent platforming, with the fox running and jumping between leafy platforms, flowing through magic streams, climbing frozen water shoots, or even bouncing between plants. You’re also able to interact with specific objects that glow in the environment by having the fox bark at them. You’ll also be able to interact with little creatures that can help you navigate the world too, the most useful being the creepy-crawly that can explode and open up new pathways for you.
Your goal is to reach each Guardian of the forest, a group of overgrown creatures including a bear, a giant crane (who’s presence you’ll know thanks to the giant feathers falling from above you), an eel, and a giant fly… sorry, I mean a ‘Cicada’, whose mission is to protect each season. Once you’ve found them and uncovered their fragments, you’ll unlock the ability to switch seasons.
The season switching is probably the neatest gameplay dynamic of Seasons After Fall, with a simple flick of the right stick changing the snowy trails of Winter into the warm showers of Spring, swapping the bright green trees of Summer into the bustling golden aura of Fall, or vice-versa. Everything changes around you and whilst the most obvious difference is how everything looks, certain objects in the environment will change to allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas. In Winter, lakes freeze over, allowing you to run across them. In Summer, you can grow trees, bringing new platforms for you to run across. Each season offers something unique, so you’ll have to keep switching between them all if you want to uncover everything in the game.
It’s almost Metroidvania-like in a way, except routes aren’t blocked by the lack of ability but instead the lack of a season. This also means there’s plenty of backtracking in the game though. Whilst you do uncover plenty of new locations, the size of each environment means you’ll be re-treading familiar ground on quite a few occasions.
Besides the platforming, there are plenty of puzzles to solve in the game too. They’re never too taxing but there are a few that are quite intricate in design, so you will have to think a little if you’re going to progress. They’re all enjoyable endeavours though – well, except for the shape drawing puzzle that is clever in design, but so awkward and frustrating in implementation. Play the game, you’ll see what I mean…
If I had to mention something else I didn’t like about the game, it would be the slight delay in controlling the fox. Whilst the fox changes direction in what could be considered a natural way, the slight delay in movement felt a little awkward during some of the game’s trickier platforming sections. I might be nit-picking and it was something I got used to, but it still annoyed me to begin with.
There’s a real sense of innocence to Seasons After Fall, something that’s not only clearly conveyed in the delightful vibe of the game world but also in the fact that there’s no combat and it’s not possible to die. Nothing will kill you in the game – not even a big fall from atop a giant tree. Whilst I enjoyed this aspect of the game, it takes away the challenge and high stakes that are typically found in a platforming game, though it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the overall enjoyable experience you’ll have.
Seasons After Fall also features a stunning string soundtrack, each piece adding to the wondrous tone of the game. Whether it’s the upbeat tunes as you stride through the forest, the peaceful tones when you explore a more tranquil environment, or even when it’s just a bit of ambient noise and the sound of animals chirping in the background, everything about the sound design of Seasons After Fall just engages you into the magnificent world.
I managed to complete the game in around six hours, though I did return to uncover each of the four ‘dream scenes’ found in the game. It’s worth doing, if only to unlock the best ending for the game, though aside from that there’s not real a whole lot that would make you want to re-play the game a second time.
I knew from the moment I first took control of the fox that I would love Seasons After Fall. It’s stunning, the platforming is great, whilst the puzzles (with the exception of one) are fantastic too. I really got absorbed into the enchanting world and I had a smile on my face from start to end.
There were one or two issues that initially frustrated me during the game and there isn’t much replay value, but don’t let that put you off what is certainly one of the most charming puzzle-platforming experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 02/09/2016