Seasons After Fall is a 2D platformer in which you play as a cute fox who can control the seasons at will. It sounds like a winning combination but is its gameplay as appealing as its premise?
This is usually the part of the review where I give a rundown of the story. However, in Seasons After Fall's case, that might be a little difficult as I'm not quite sure what was going on a lot of the time even after completing it. You start off controlling a seed which then possesses a fox. Then, you're instructed by the disembodied voice of a young girl (who is also a seed) to collect an element of each season. But then she abandons you and you're turned into some kind of spirit fox. A bear then comes along and tells you to do more stuff including activating four altars. Now, the seed hates you for some reason. Also, the bear and seed talk to each other a lot. I'm sorry I can't relate a more cohesive version of the story but that's how it comes across when you play the game. The narrative has an unconventional structure that leaves you unclear as to what's going on a lot of the time which has the knock-on effect of you frequently getting lost or not knowing where to go. We'll get onto that in a bit.
One area in which Seasons After Fall definitely isn't lacking is in its presentation. Its hand-drawn graphical style is beautiful and reminiscent in presentation and quality of classic children's cartoons. The locations are full of character and richly detailed and the varied colour palette helps give each one its own unique feel. The music and sound design are also excellent. A string quartet soundtrack kicks in at key moments to help accentuate the mood of the seasons and the atmospheric sound effects serve to further embellish the levels' mysterious qualities. Seasons After Fall's looks are further spotlighted by its season-changing mechanic. After completing the first few levels, you're able to alter the season at any time. Switch to summer and the scenery will become awash with greenery, flowers and tweeting birds; change to fall and everything gets repainted in lush ochre complete with falling leaves and giant toadstools.
Changing the seasons isn't just for aesthetic value as it's key to helping you progress. For example, winter freezes the lakes which allows you to run across them whereas spring makes plants grow that can then be used as springboards. As you acquire these abilities one at a time, new sections in previous levels subsequently open up to you, requiring you to backtrack to progress the story.
This is where some of the charm starts to wear off. Much of the levels aren't that engaging and just require you to run left or right, occasionally jumping over an obstacle or using your season-changing power to progress. This wouldn't be a problem if you only played each level once but it repeatedly makes you go back across the same levels again and again. Sometimes, you'll have an idea of what you're looking for and other times, you won't. Once your original narrator disappears, the game seems to expect you to know where you're supposed to be headed most of the time. This can lead to a lot of aimless running around, searching impatiently for something that will move the story along. Occasionally, you'll even complete your objective but be left to run back to the central hub area which can take several minutes. Some fast-travel spots open up towards the end of proceedings but there are so few that they don't do much to alleviate having to repeat the same sections over and over.
Your progress is also continually hindered by having to keep stopping to switch seasons. In some areas, you have to repeatedly change them just to progress a short distance which can turn the chief mechanic from a delight into a chore. Matters aren't helped by some unresponsive jumping controls that require you to jump well in advance unless you want to repeatedly run off the edge of platforms.
Seasons After Fall is a beautiful game to look at and listen to but it can often be tedious to play due to its insistence on repeated backtracking and general lack of guidance. There are some endearing moments throughout its confusing story but the amount of running back and forth between them makes it questionable whether they're worth the effort of uncovering.
- + Charming graphical style that's akin to classic children's cartoons
- + Nice music and sound design
- + You control a cute fox
- - Far too much tedious backtracking
- - Often unclear where you have to go
- - Jumping often feels unresponsive