There’s a lot to be said for the good old fashioned platformer. Done right it can walk the fine line between simple gameplay and unbridled fun, all the while still offering a suitable challenge which means it hits that Goldilocks level of difficulty – not too easy, not too hard. The problem nowadays though is how to make the games feel fresh and original, without using excessively difficult mechanics to give you something new and interesting to enjoy. Seasons After Fall does a very decent job of this, and apart from a few issues which might frustrate some people it’s a very enjoyable and undeniably beautiful game to fill a few hours with.
You spend most of the game controlling a pretty cute fox, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The fox is actually being possessed by a spirit of some kind, needing a body to move around the forest and find the four guardians. Each guardian grants the ability to harness a different season, with each one used to solve various issues that the forest is suffering from. This manifests itself within the game as you being able to flick between the four seasons of the year at will, using that pretty cool ability to manipulate your environments to reach new areas and discover new things to help you along your journey.
These come in several different ways as you’d expect, be that a plant which spews out big bouncy things in the summer, or one which sprays a fountain of water which you can quickly freeze by switching over to winter and climb up to new platforms. Some plants and trees come alive when you bark at them (do foxes bark? this one does…), unravelling and extending branches as long as you’re in the right time of year. This mechanic works so well as a result of the actual playing area not being overly huge. You’ll be running back and forth around the same patches of forest for a lot of the game, but as the seasons change the forest changes too, not only in functionality as mentioned previously but also in how it looks. The colours change beautifully from chilly looking blues and purples, through to the gorgeous autumnal tones of… well… autumn, and it by far one of the game’s best features. I spent a fair amount of time just wandering round trying out different seasons to see how certain areas looked, a venture which stretched the game out to a bit over 5 hours – hardly an epic, but it probably didn’t need to be any longer.
And that’s because at times, especially when all four seasons are at your fingertips, it can be a real pain in the ass trying to work out what you’re meant to be doing. While I applaud the decision to let the player figure things out for themselves and just enjoy the atmosphere, it’s quite an easy game up to a point and really lets you just play and enjoy yourself. So when things get a little more complex and you end up running around randomly trying different seasons, hoping to luck into the right options, it can be a bit frustrating. It’s not game breaking, and often you figure it out only to kick yourself because you noticed an area earlier that you couldn’t reach and forgot all about it, but it’s a noticeable and jolting few moments.
But let’s not take anything away from what Seasons After Fall is all about. This is a great, gentle story wrapped in a very likeable platformer, and certainly one that you could play with your kids around and share the experience with them. There are a few talking points that could come up from it too if you’re looking for them but even if you just enjoy this as an exercise in beauty and relaxation then you’re still winning. Be aware of the impending frustrations and short game time, and accept them as just a slight dip in an otherwise great package, and you’ll have a really good time.
Reviewed on PS4