Seasons After Fall, developed by Swing Swing Submarine, is yet another game in recent years that may add fuel to the debate of what defines a videogame. Titles like Gone Home, and Journey, for example, featured little-to-no combat to speak of, but were highly praised at the time of their release. Some will argue that these are not games by more traditional standards, while others say that games are an experience, and one which doesn’t play by any particular set of rules. I think the defining factor for whether you will enjoy a game like Seasons after Fall might come down to what side of that argument you fall on. Also, perhaps even your age. Overall, Seasons After Fall is a beautiful, albeit shallow and drawn out title that perhaps is better suited as an introduction to the platforming genre for younger gamers.
They say, in theater, that the first five minutes are arguably the most important. This is the time a play has to pull an audience in quickly, and keep them interested for the duration of the play. The first five minutes of Seasons After Fall did very little to engage me. I’m all for limited tutorials at the start of a game, but in this case, it caused the game to start with a bit of a thud as you start the game off as an orb-like spirit with no clear objective. The controls are awkward, even with a controller in hand, especially in this beginning area. This caused me to float around the environment with no idea of how to proceed. Of course, I figured out how to progress eventually, but it left a bad taste in my mouth almost immediately, which is unfortunate, as the game gets much better as soon as this intro is over. At this point, the player (rather cruelly) takes control of a fox in order to meet various guardians in control of the seasons. The controls get much better at this point, which makes this intro all the more perplexing, as it’s not very indicative of the rest of the game. It does little to teach the player anything, and feels out of place. Sadly, I never truly felt like the game recovered from this false start.
The introduction of the fox is when the actual story begins, and also when it begins to make more sense. As a spirit of the forest, you are tasked with discovering several “guardians” in order to learn powers that will help you ultimately invoke the “ritual of seasons”. In addition, there is a narrator that will make commentary throughout the game, offering hints and bits of humor. The problem with the narration is that it feels forced at times, and I never really felt like the words had much impact on the story, or gameplay. For example, there is ample warning of a particular guardian being very “grumpy” and “dangerous”, but once I actually engaged with this being, the interaction was over in the blink of an eye. This guardian behaved in a very similar way to the last one, only different in form. All of that build-up for very little pay off. In fact, I think that sums up Seasons After Fall pretty well actually: build-up that doesn’t ultimately pay off. By the end of the game, I was just playing for the sake of completion, and rolled my eyes a bit at a forced twist at the end.
The gameplay definitely falls under the “Metroidvania” category in the way our hero will gain powers that allow him to backtrack through levels to access previously unreachable areas. In Seasons After Fall, these powers come in the form, well… seasons. Each guardian will give you control of a different season which, admittedly, makes for some fun experimentation to start. Need to reach a ledge? Try switching to winter mode and freezing that geyser. No geyser in sight? Switch to spring and allow that dormant plant to sprout, granting you access to higher areas. The same goes for fall, and summer. It’s intuitive, and at the start, I was really hoping they would take this idea and expand. Unfortunately, these clever ideas never develop into something more. Expect to find different variations of the simple introductory puzzles ad nauseum. This lack of challenge makes experimentation unnecessary, and makes the last few hours feel like extra padding. Had the developers shortened the game, I don’t think this repetition would have been as severe, but as it stands the game overstays its welcome.
The difficulty stays roughly the same throughout, and that is to say very easy. There is no actual way to lose this game, and no enemies to speak of. When you combine these elements with the easy puzzles, the game begins to feel a bit like a walking simulator. Simply go from place to place until you reach the end. However, unlike a good walking simulator, this game doesn’t have an engaging story to compensate for the lack of challenge or tactile gameplay. At least for adults.
When I think about the simplistic story, puzzles, and overall ease of the game, it actually makes me think that children will enjoy Seasons After Fall. This game may serve as the perfect bridge for a child who has moved on from more definitive children’s games, and wants something slightly more complex. In that regard, I would definitely recommend this as a game for parents to play with their kids.
If there is one thing that truly stands out about Seasons After Fall, it’s the absolutely stunning visuals. The game is a waterbrush painting come to life. Each character is comprised of simple brushstrokes, all the way down to the eyes, and it makes for amazing characterizations. These simple brushstrokes add up to vivid environments that easily stand toe-to-toe with other visual stunners like Ori and the Blind Forest. Funnily, it’s this very beauty that makes the game all the more frustrating. Simply put: these characters look more interesting than they really are. I desperately wanted these characters to live up to their visual flair, but was constantly disappointed. Regardless, the game is a treat for the eyes.
The music is string-based, and whimsical enough. I can’t say any of the tunes were particularly memorable, but they certainly are pleasing, and served their purpose. In terms of sound, what stuck with me more was the phenomenal voice acting. The dialogue is crisp, clear and conveys a strong sense of emotion where needed. Something that not every game, even in 2016, can claim to have.
Seasons After Fall is an easy game. It is also a very calm, and beautiful game. For some, this will be enough: a peaceful trek through the forest. For others, this will be a frustrating trudge with no real sense of challenge. I happen to fall into the latter category. However, perhaps I’m not the right type, or age for this game. Furthermore, I strongly feel that children can get something out of this title, and that it can serve as an excellent primer for more challenging games in the platforming genre. Even with the things the game does right, though, it is still hard to recommend. At $14.99 on Steam, the price feels a bit too steep for what you are getting. If you’re a parent, I doubt your child will mind. However, if you’re an older gamer, this definitely needs to be taken into consideration. As it stands, even if this game is your cup of tea, I’d wait a little while before trekking through this forest.
+ Stunning Visuals.
+Quality Voice Acting.
+Music is engaging.
+Great for kids and families.
– Length feels stretched out.
– Story doesn’t quite pay off.