It’s not often I get the chance to review a title that doesn’t rely on just your reflexes or skill. There have been a few, however, The Turing Test, Inside & Pneuma spring to mind. Seasons after Fall is one more to add to that list.
Swing Swing Submarine’s Seasons after Fall is a puzzle-platformer based around magic and nature. You start off as a ball of light; a seed, bouncing around a dark expanse, populated by other points of light. Initially here, I must admit to being a little bit apprehensive about the game. I’d not read up on it and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I need not have been concerned though, as soon you are possessing the body of a small, nimble fox.
As Fox, you’re introduced to the Sanctuary and a mysterious disembodied voice asking you to help her. The Guardians of the Seasons are slumbering and the time of the Ritual of the Seasons is upon us. As a seed, you’re in line to be involved. The first task is to approach the Guardian of Winter, a bear, and implore him to release the first seasonal Fragment. These allow you to change the seasons and interact differently with the environment. That, in essence, is Seasons after Fall, and yet, in so many other ways, it is by no means everything.
Your control of the Fox is pretty straightforward. You can move left or right, jump using A and Yap using X. After retrieving the Winter Fragment, you are forcibly combined with it and using the right stick, you can then change the season at will. This will then have an effect on the environment you’re in to help you solve the puzzles that are presented.
These puzzles might be as simple as, how do I get onto the platform that seems out of jumping reach, or how do I remove this thing blocking my path. They also stretch to finding parts of ancient stone altars and solving some of the Achievement grabbing extras that the game contains. The puzzles that Seasons after Fall contains are a nice mixture of intriguing, fiendish and relatively easy. It won’t challenge you so much that you’ll never figure it out, and experimentation can be the key. There are a number of factors that affect your progress and often, something you’ve learned by experimenting on a different puzzle can help you solve one later down the line.
The solutions are limited to simply changing the environment either. Small spores and sponges that scuttle away from you can be interacted with to either reach out of the way places in Fall or to shatter obstacles in Winter with a swift but cute Yap. There are so many options and choices from the main game mechanic that it can be confusing, but I promise, by the time you’re tasked with freeing the Wind Stones, you’ll have it mastered.
Perhaps that’s the point, evolving your own playing method, just as nature would. Nature itself is fantastically represented in Seasons after Fall. Each area has a palette of colour for each of the four seasons you could possibly represent there. Hues of orange and browns for Autumn (or Fall if you’re across the pond), whites and light blues for winter, greens for Spring and yellows and light greens for Summer. Each season will affect the environment, as previously mentioned, also. So ponds and lakes will turn to ice in Winter, winds will blow in Fall, rain falls in Spring and things get a little drier in Summer. All of this helps to not only set the scene, but present you with options to solve the riddles and help achieve your tasks.
The Fox is smoothly animated, in a pastel art-style that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ubi-Art framework game. Everything looks amazing and there’s a beautifully arranged soundtrack that accompanies you in-game. After specific tasks are completed in Seasons after Fall, the music will change to something uplifting, to reinforce that feeling of progress. The orchestration compliments each season too, adding to the immersion you should feel in-game.
The story is engaging as you progress, with you initially collecting Season Fragments to complete the Ritual, but you’ll soon find yourself abandoned by your initial companion, only to be taken under the wing (or paw) of another to release the Forest from the spell it has been put under. This leads to probably the most irritating part of Seasons after Fall, if I was being picky. You are sent to the same areas of the game in order to free the four winds and set the Forest free. I don’t mind games where you backtrack on yourself in order to complete another set of puzzles, but you end up speeding through those sections to your goal. There are some subtle differences though, as you bind the Season Spirits to the stones in the Sanctuary, yet it almost seems as if the developers remembered at some stage that the first altars you discover haven’t added their spirit as they introduce another two altars to find and repair to complete the game.
This introduces two new areas to explore, though, which is great, but finding the access areas for those two places forces you to take paths that you’ve already taken. This can make the player slightly tired, and is a little frustrating when you realise you’ve got to re-tread a path or two. It’s like sitting on your sofa with a cuppa, only to realise you’ve left the biscuits in the kitchen. The only other gripe I have it when you need to switch seasons on a moving platform. This usually leads to you falling off that platform and having to navigate to it once more.
In short, then, Seasons after Fall is a fantastic looking environment-manipulating platform puzzler with an engaging and interesting story. It is stunningly drawn with a beautiful and complimentary soundtrack. The voice-acting is well cast and well-executed. The puzzles are challenging enough to keep you hooked as you know the solution is tantalisingly close and it’s a game that evolves your playing style as your progress. It’s slightly let down by the backtracking you’ll have in completing a set of tasks but the feeling of satisfaction you’ll get from completing the story will more than make up for it. The bottom line; should Seasons after Fall be on your playlist? Yes. Yes it should.