In Seasons After Fall, you play as a cunning fox possessed by a spiritual seed of nature. Commanded by a disembodied voice, you’ll traverse stunning, hand-painted landscapes to gather and wield the powers of the seasons.
In a nutshell, Seasons After Fall is a puzzle-platformer featuring luscious artwork accompanied by a masterful string quartet. Suspend your rational thought long enough to delve into this fantastical forest and you’ll be rewarded with charming narrative and the organic beauty of wild growth.
“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” -Aeschylus
Beginning our journey as a small mote of nature, a seed, thrust up into the forest by an unknown power… The game begins with about as much explanation as nature itself offers. Instructed by a welcoming voice, I direct the seed to possess a lone fox merely passing by the unfolding events.
The journey laid out for the fox and me: To gather the powers of the four seasons, controlled by four respective guardians. The voice that speaks to me claims we would both benefit from receiving the powers of the four seasons and using them to initiate a ritual. Inferring a motive from the voice seems impossible for now, but I can’t help but suspect that she has cavalier ideas about what to do with these powers.
Running and jumping from ledge to treetop, puddle to branch, the journey to Winter’s Guardian is easy enough. A large, hibernating bear awaits. He’s sleeping and wakes only enough to channel the power of Winter out into the open air. The fox can bark, or yap and doing so will interact with certain things in the game. Bark twice, and the power of winter, represented by a floating blue orb, will wash the landscape, converting a green forest and wet ponds into violet blue icy vistas.
The power of Winter can be used to transform water, from which you cannot jump, into ice for getting to hard-to-reach ledges. Certain plants behave differently in Winter, collecting snowflakes and spitting out giant masses of snow to build up the ground. Right away, Seasons After Fall makes its intentions as a game clear. Even if I’m not sure why, at least I understand how.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” -Albert Einstein
After bringing the power of Winter back to the shrine, where our game began, the mysterious voice separates my seed from the fox just long enough to combine it with the mote of Winter. From now on, the power of Winter is part of me, and after repossessing the fox I can channel it at will using the right analog stick.
Finding and meeting the other guardians, gathering their powers, and bringing them back to the shrine is the initial goal. Each seasonal power allows me to change the weather of the region I’m traveling though, providing a couple different benefits.
The first is that multiple features of the landscape and its denizens change depending on the season. That cup-like plant which collected snow before will swallow rain during Spring showers, spitting it up on tree sprouts to coax the growth of a massive vertical shortcut. In Summer, barking at coiled plant tendrils causes them to unwind and allow access to new paths. Waterspouts reach different strengths depending on the season, and all may be frozen at their current height upon changing the scene to Winter. Many more interactions exist in the game and, eventually, all four seasons must be utilized effectively to get where you want to go.
The second benefit of changing seasons is simple: It looks really, quite amazing. Seasons After Fall features a lush aesthetic design that utilizes hand-painted landscapes and creatures. Commanding the season to change initiates a quick but beautiful transition, like jabbing a sopping wet paintbrush onto a thirsty canvas. Colors bleed into one another for a moment, converting the warm reds and oranges of Fall to the stunning pink and purple hues of Spring, and freezing the lively yellows and verdant plant life of Summer into wintry purples and blue gray snow.
It’s not all Sunshine and Roses
Half the reward of playing Seasons After Fall is easily the audio/visual aspect of the game. Cued by the various seasonal changes within, a light and bubbly string quartet matches the ambience of the game perfectly. There’s a playful attitude about the whole experience, even while exploring dark caves or revealing the spiteful secrets behind our would-be benefactor. The latter part of the story, actually, is when the game really seems to open up.
Spoilers withstanding, certain events take place and our mysterious, invisible friend says some questionable things. A transformation takes place, and our fox and seed forge a new dynamic to their relationship. Gifted with the full powers of the four seasons, it’s up to our vulpine hero to set out and revisit the four main areas of the game again. The gradual acquisition of powers ensures that, upon returning to an already completed area for the second (and third) time, new paths are available.
Progressing through the story line of Seasons After Fall is, in large, a joyful experience. I did experience some fatigue navigating the various areas, as certain paths that open up on subsequent visits can be annoying to find. A major mechanic of the game is exploring the same region multiple times, opening up new paths and even entire levels using new powers. Unfortunately, it becomes a drag on my interest and ability to have such lighthearted fun as was so easy in the first half of my play through. Solving the platforming puzzles and getting out of the weeds, sometimes literally, still provides a satisfying feeling, however.
Seasons After Fall is a game for nature enthusiasts, lazy afternoons, and platform aficionados. Constantly evolving puzzle mechanics, heartfelt voice work, and stunningly well-crafted landscapes provide for a beautiful gaming experience, even if it isn’t always remarkably challenging. Spreading my completion of the game across several days seemed to help with feelings of, “Oh, I have to go back there?” Even though the game does recycle some content, utilizing different seasons and opening up new areas ensures that every sylvan exploration is somewhat different.
Achievements and trophy unlocks are easily acquired, sprinkled throughout the game at logical places and intervals. There are collectibles, sort of, for those 100% addicts. Of course, this is a game best enjoyed with the mind of one visiting a museum or art gallery. Indie titles frequently change the way I think a game ought to be, or perform, and Seasons After Fall is definitely one such example.
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