Seasons After Fall emphasizes the most wonderful parts of our seasons, creating picturesque scenery with a wide pallet colors and creation mythos elements to make this fairy-tale of a world an enchanting experience. At the beginning, you emerge as a ball of light, fighting your way up from underground to be born on the surface. From there, a friendly female seed greets you, the Little Seed, and guides you to acquire the power to control the seasons from the Guardians. You do this while inhabiting the body of a fox, because how else could you frolic all fancy-like through the grass and hollowed out tree logs?
For a 2D puzzle-platformer, the levels are naturally integrated into the environment – and one of the most naturally integrated that I have ever seen in any game of the same genre. Utilizing the changing seasons to its advantage, Seasons After Fall feels less like a traditional platformer and more like an innovation, jumping from tree branch to vine, frozen geyser to snowball, all the while bending the seasons to your command. The narrative and setting aren’t built around the level design, but rather the design enhances the narrative and setting, allowing for a gorgeous and immersive experience.
The Sanctuary is the middle point of the map, with the rest of it extending in opposite directions. From there, the maps branch off further, taking you to places aptly named Quagmire, Pond, and Creek. (That’s just some of the names – not all.) In these areas you will interact with the Guardians and collect artifacts to complete their ritual. As the story unfolds, each of these areas change a little in their appearance to accommodate for how the story changes: new vines extends to once unreachable platforms; whole bodies of water breakaway to reveal underground labyrinths; portals appear to previously hidden areas. Seasons After Fall is a platformer that lets you become intimate with your locations instead of moving you in only one direction.
The puzzles in these areas also differ a bit from one another, forcing the player to change his or her strategy; this was a great element to Seasons After Fall that took away some of the unavoidable repetitiveness of a platformer. You may gather the same pieces to solve multiple instances of the same type of puzzle, but how you gather them is different. From finding them in the dark to catching them in a free fall, the varying and unexpected combination of mechanics keep things interesting. Another appreciated mechanic was the ability to “fast travel” in the later levels, which quickened the pace of the game just enough to stave off most fatigue from running back and forth for so long.
The main puzzle-solving mechanic is, of course, your ability to control the seasons. By activating each season, you not only change the look of the environment around you, but you also change what you can interact with in your immediate space: snow is, of course, one main component of the winter season, as are frozen ponds; fall has windy currents and warm-colored leaves; spring has rain and acorn-like water tanks; and summer blooms mushrooms, releasing their spores and the occasional bug-like creature. To get from point A to point B you’ll frequently change between the seasons, but you don’t start off with all the seasons at your disposal. You have to find them first. By that point, the game is just getting started.
After you have command of the four seasons, the narrative takes a surprise turn. Your role in this world is much greater than you are initially lead to believe, and the responsibility you shoulder is almost intimidating. You’ll awaken the Guardians so their ritual can be performed, without a clear understanding of what the ritual is meant to accomplish. But, the bear – the guardian of winter – has such a kind and soothing voice, it’s hard not to trust him.
However, while the bear does a commendable job of leading you toward your next objective, sometimes he’s not so clear with what needs to be done. You might find yourself wandering from one side of the world to the other, unsure of where you need to go next to trigger the next part of the story. This doesn’t necessarily become tedious, but you might need to take a step back from the game for an hour or so and come back to it with fresh eyes. That said, the puzzles aren’t difficult. They’re ridiculously easy and, backtracking aside, they aren’t tiring.
The story is also a little vague, either purposely or accidentally, on just what exactly this ritual entails and why the other seed is so afraid to take part in it. The power dynamics are clear between the seed and the guardians – with you in the middle – but the narrative doesn’t necessarily answer “why” what you are doing is important for most of the game. Combined with a lack of direction, it would be more motivating to have players understand why the ritual is important rather than blindly going into each task. I imagine this would have helped with the fatigue of running back and forth to finish one mission after the next.
With that in mind, be prepared for a longer game than you would expect – easily over 6 hours, with a narrative that seems to defy all conventional beats to give you a fresh perspective on storytelling. Just when you think you know what will happen next, Seasons After Fall proves you wrong in the best way possible.
Last and not least, the sound and musical composition brings all the elements of the game together, stirring up emotions at the right place and time. I can only describe the music and sound in adjectives: whimsical, magical, airy, grounded, yet dreamy. If all children’s books came with music, this is what they would sound like; it’s the different between an A and an A+.
Whatever issues this game presents, they are minor and do not affect how the game can be enjoyed. Seasons After Fall – it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Seasons After Fall was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer.
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine | Publisher: Focus Home Interactive | Genre: 2D Pluzzle-Platformer, Adventure, Indie | Platform: PC | PEGI/ESRB: NA | Release Date: September 2, 2016