‘Seasons After Fall’ Review: Spiritual Platformer

Seasons After Fall is a new indie title from developer Swing Swing Submarine (Tetrobot and Co.). Players control a little fox who in turn is possessed by a “seed” or nature spirit. As the story unfolds players learn to control the four seasons, changing between them to solve various puzzles. A sidescrolling platformer, some may say a “metroidvania” style game, but I would disagree. More of a puzzle game with open world exploration, there are no boss fights, just interesting, and sometimes challenging, brain teasers. Seasons After Fall is beautifully rendered in brush stroke graphics with extremely cute artwork and gorgeous level design. Accompany all of this with a haunting violin soundtrack and Seasons After Fall is a relaxing and rare gem of a game.

Players awaken as a bright floating little seed with the disembodied voice of a little British girl explaining that you must find the guardians of the seasons. They have been gone for too long and you must find them and ask for their help. Your seed must find a host to travel with and you find a small red fox to possess. Seasons After Fall plays like most platformers, as your fox must jump from various platforms in the woods as he searches. The only other ability he has at the start of the game is to bark, and this can activate certain functions in the various puzzles. The simplicity adds to this already charming game.

As you progress, and find the guardians, they will each grant you the ability to change the season to their respective one, by barking twice at first, and later holding the R1 button and selecting from a wheel menu. While this may seem simple, as there are no enemies or boss fights, Seasons After Fall will make you consider many variables. Each landscape changes with the various seasons, opening up plants, or freezing spouts of water to allow your little fox access to the next area. Some of the puzzles also include positioning glowing lightning bugs in a certain order with your barking commands. There are little mushroom creatures who will sprout new mushrooms and must be corralled to a certain area to provide a lift. These puzzles vary from easy to frustratingly hard, but if you put forth the time to back track, eventually you will find something you missed.

Each of the guardians is represented by a huge animal with glowing eyes. As our seed fox meets them, they offer a small floating ball of nature power that will follow you and must be brought back to the original starting glade area. These help our friend with the disembodied voice get closer to her goal. It also allows for a good learning curve, as players learn the various plants and objects affected by each season change. Mushrooms will come out in the fall, providing platforms to jump on, rain will flood areas in the spring, and water will freeze in the winter allowing you to run across to new areas. These seasons will graphically change the areas, the music, and overall tone of the game. Each are beautifully rendered with amazing weather effects. I was very impressed with the innovative and creative design of Seasons After Fall.

While the ability to explore the “open world” is granted to you, unfortunately this can lead to some issues, as there is little direction of where to go in the second half of the game. My little fox would spend allot of time running in circles, backtracking to find a component to a puzzle I missed. It would become very frustrating at times and ruin my relaxed state of mind unfortunately. A help option or even a map would’ve been very welcome in Seasons After Fall. The controls are not as responsive as the usual enemies based side scrollers, and this may bother some players. I myself was not, and adjusted to it quickly. Many jumps were nail biters but I loved watching my cute little fox scramble and pull himself up the ledge after a jump that I was certain I was going to miss.

While not very long, at about 6 hours to complete, Seasons After Fall was still a joy to play. It was more of an experience, with puzzles tossed in, than a game. It felt like a very old tale about nature and her spirit. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki films should instantly feel a connection. While not perfect, with some issues navigating areas and finding puzzle components leading to frustration in the later half of the game, Seasons After Fall still manages to capture a unique feel and for the most part is a very relaxing game. It was impossible not to smile as my adorable fox was dashing through a field and the music rose up to fit the mood perfectly. Seasons After Fall is a game your family can watch you play and end up as charmed as the player. I highly recommend it.

Seasons After Fall is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose.

out of 5

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