For a while now I have only been getting more and more fed up with indie 2D platformers. This is mostly due to the fact that they are easy to make so there are lots out there, and partially because I buy a lot of indie bundles, and 9 times out of 10 these bundles include at least one 2D platformer. However, I have to admit that this is the first time in a long time that I have really enjoyed a 2D platformer. Apparently, it took a story about a fox to make me care about the genre again.
The story of Seasons After Fall concerns a strange floating spirit called Little Seed who is awakened by a disembodied voice and sent on a quest to retrieve fragments of the different seasons from four guardians. To do this, you possess the body of a nearby wild fox, who becomes your vessel for the journey, helping you to perform the ritual of seasons to change your life forever.
The story is quite interesting and is told partially through very short cutscenes, but more often than not through the disembodied voice’s narration. The story at first seems to be very light and simple, but at around the halfway point manages to take a bit of a turn, which I’ll try not to spoil for you. Needless to say, the story doesn’t stay in the safe territory like you might expect.
Seasons After Fall is a quote/unquote ‘artsy’ 2D puzzle platformer, with the basic controls you might have come to expect from the slew of titles that fall into that category these days. Other than running around there are basically two controls, you have a jump (obviously) and you also have a ‘bark’ which is used to trigger several effects throughout the world, as well as interact with the other animals that you come across. You’re free to use either a keyboard or a gamepad, and fortunately you have the option to use a d-pad to control the character, which is very nice when you’re moving around in only 2 dimensions.
The game manages to mainly avoiding tutorial-izing the mechanics, excluding a very brief section at the beginning. From that point on you’re left to discover how everything works on your own, and even then the game doesn’t feel the need to drag you around by the nose. You mainly find your own way through the world, but the voice over does occasionally give you a little nudge if you’re heading in wrong direction.
The gameplay’s variety is mainly to be found in the ‘seasons’ mechanic; as you progress through the game, you unlock the ability to change the natural world by switching the season you’re currently in. The different seasons affect the world around you in a number of ways. During the winter, for instance, there’s a shortage of plants since they don’t grow during that season, but lakes and ponds are frozen over, so it’s possible to walk across them. During the autumn wild mushrooms sprout, but lots of other plants aren’t usable, and during the spring you can use rain to make ponds deeper or grow trees suddenly.
Most of the puzzles of this ‘puzzle-platformer’ stem from this season switching mechanic, so as an example you might be faced with a lake that is too low down to allow you to jump to a platform, so you have to switch to spring to fill the lake up, then switch to winter so the water is frozen and you can walk across it to access the ledge.
If that description of a puzzle doesn’t strike you as much of a challenge, then I am doing my job correctly because pretty much none of the puzzles are even close to difficult. As long as you’re not drunk when you play, you’ll probably breeze through pretty much the whole game without stopping. The only other negative point is that a few of the puzzles required backtracking which can get annoying quickly.
The graphics and sound are where this game truly shines, and I mean that deeply and sincerely. The game is stylized as if it is a living painting, and every element of the character designs and animations leans towards that. You can see all of the individual strokes that make up each character, and the whole thing evokes a landscape painting that changes as you play.
The colour palette uses lots of browns, greens, and yellows to help fit in with the natural style of the game, but occasionally there is splash of red or blue depending on which season is currently active. The different areas of the game also have noticeable differences as well, with some leaning more heavily on darker colours to make you feel like you’re in a deep forest, and others aiming in a more pale range to show that you’re in an open meadow or field.
The music is also excellent and mainly uses violins to evoke the many emotions that are present at different points in the story. At times the music is rushing and exciting as you run free across open ground, at other times it becomes dark and mysterious as a magical ritual takes place. The violin is sometimes combined with short piano chords to highlight certain puzzles or new discoveries, and the whole thing screams ‘classical’ in pretty much every moment.
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 2nd September 2016