Seasons After Fall – Visually stunning, but the gameplay is lacking
Reviewed September 13, 2016 on PC
Disclosure: A PC (Steam) download code was provided by the publisher for this review
Seasons After Fall is a 2D puzzle platformer, telling the story of the fox who obtains the ability to manipulate seasons. The story isn't especially noteworthy, though it is well told. The game's writing and narration voice acting leads the story to take on a children's storybook type of vibe, which match the artstyle well and makes for an interesting experience.
The gameplay in Seasons After Fall is rather basic, and that is where the game starts to come apart. By changing the season, the fox is able to reach new areas and explore deeper into the world by, for example, unfurling leaves as platforms or freezing water. Outside of the season manipulation, the platforming is extremely simple - the fox can run and jump, and that is about it. There are no enemies, no fall damage, no time-sensitive puzzles, and little in the way of threats at all. Early sections of the game pretty much boiled down to running in a specific direction and occasionally jumping, making it easy to tune out and stop paying attention. The first half of the game is spent gathering the season manipulation powers, and feels like an extended tutorial. More or less, the part of the game involves going in a set direction to reach the power, and then running all the way back to the centre of the world. This would have been fine as a tutorial, but this cycle then repeats three times to gather the rest of the powers. It isn't an engaging experience, and if not for the good looking artwork would be exceedingly boring.
The simplistic platforming could perhaps be excused if the game's puzzles were interesting. Sadly, they, for the most part, aren't. Too many of them could be solved by simply finding the one thing to do in a specific environment, and doing that. To its credit, the puzzles in the latter half of the game significantly improve, and there are some interesting uses of combinations of seasons. By that point I had largely checked out of the game due to the lacklustre first half, and it was a big ask for the game to pull me back in at that point.
It didn't help that switching between seasons didn't feel like a smooth or quick process, meaning some of the latter puzzles felt clunky. It's perhaps unfortunate that I played Hue prior to this game, as they both use similar systems (move the right stick to pick a new environment) but only Hue got it exactly right. In Seasons After Fall, switching between seasons takes a few seconds, so jumping then switching seasons is impossible, meaning mis-timed jumps cannot be recovered. Not only that, but switching mid-jump kills the character's momentum, so I would frequently do so by mistake, fall through the gap, and end up having to start the section over.