Although hampered by repetitive game play and a fragmented story, this short but seamless platformer will easily please anyone looking for a leisurely 2D puzzler.
This hand-painted puzzle platformer was brought to life by Swing Swing Submarine, a small indie studio whose previous projects include Blocks That Matter and Tetrobot & Co. In what seems to be their biggest project to date, the player possesses a wild fox sent on a journey seeking the “Guardians for the Seasons.” The details of the quest itself are rather hazy, but the main point of interest is the fox’s astounding ability to change the seasons at will. Beginning with just spring and fall, the player gains the essence of winter and summer as the game progresses—and with them, a variety of dazzling effects. Each season affects the environment differently: use winter to freeze waterfalls, spring to accelerate plant growth, or fall to summon gale force winds. More effects are introduced as the game progresses, and the player must time where and when to switch in order to continue.
The use of the seasons as an actual game play mechanic as opposed to a simple backdrop already places it above the average side scroller, plus the gorgeous environment and orchestral soundtrack are a wonderful supplement. Storytelling aside, it’s obvious that a great amount of care went into crafting each season mode: switching seasons changes everything from the color palette to the sound effects (and even the behavior of other creatures). Every aspect of the environment reacts to the player’s presence, giving the game a remarkable sense of authenticity.
Despite the game’s impressive amount of detail, the story of Seasons After Fall struggles to uphold its impressively naturalistic environment. The expository portion of the game is relatively straightforward—find the guardians, acquire seasonal powers, etc.—but when a major narrative shift finally arrives later on, it isn’t nearly as dramatic as one would expect, due in part to the sparse delivery of plot information. The second half of the game teases a conversation about living things and their relationship with the environment, but it’s not that the story is bad. Its delivery gives way to a number of cliches and plot holes. The fox cannot speak (along with most of the NPCs), so the only real dialogue and plot information comes by way of the narrator. While that format isn’t intrinsically bad (after all, plenty of games have done the same), it becomes an issue when the information conveyed is so fragmented that it’s hard to tell where your puzzle-solving fits into the plot itself. The smooth game play and lush visuals are impressive, but feel detached from the narrative. To be concise, the plot of Seasons After Fall leaves a lot of questions up to the player, but not always in a way that piques your curiosity.
Regardless, the lack of narrative depth isn’t too bad considering the creative effort placed into the puzzles themselves. The game play is nice and fluent, with surprisingly few hiccups. Each puzzle is neither simple nor over complicated—they really hit the sweet spot in terms of being both reasonably challenging and intuitive. The puzzles aren’t incredibly difficult—many are simply a matter of trial and error—but are still interesting enough to be satisfying. Since each season has multiple applications, the obstacles in the player’s path sport a fair amount of variety. However, since the world itself is relatively small, players should expect some repetition.
In short, Seasons After Fall lacks a bit of depth, but is held up by its carefully crafted environment and charmingly innovative game play. It’s a bit short and a tad cheesy, but won’t disappoint anyone who knows what they’re getting into. Recommended for fans of Child of Light or Never Alone (or even those simply looking to relax).