Due to the combination of preparing for EGX and reviewing a good few September releases, I’ve been feeling rather stressed. I’ve plagued my usual online haunts with banshee-like screaming about one thing or the next. One suggestion I got to cool myself down was to go on a walk. However, I generally don’t get along with the outdoors as I’m easily frightened. So instead, I thought I’d review something calming. So I dug up a review copy of nature-exploration title Seasons after Fall to look at.
Seasons after Fall is a side-scrolling game made by Swing Swing Submarine. Within the earth of a forest lies you. There you slumber, as a spirit of some kind with no past. Until one day, without provocation, you rise to the surface. Upon which a seed makes you possess a fox. She then tells you to go off and collect four symbols of the seasons so she can perform a ritual.
Off you go then into each of the four zones represented by the seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. As you start gathering the symbols, it is hard to ignore the condensed whimsy this game embraces. From the aesthetic, to how your fox leaps and bounds across the land and even the lack of enemies make it a forest of frolicking than anything else. It is hard not to hold a pleasant relaxing smile as you wander around looking for the ritual components.
This relaxing pace continues as a lot of the puzzles depend on you traversing and manipulating the environment. Since, as a spirit fox, you have the power to alter the Earth’s axis on the fly you can adjust what season you wish to utilize. These can lead to the blooming of mushrooms, freezing of water, flooding of areas and blooming of vines. As there is no rush and these are rather easy puzzles to solve, the process feels soothing.
My smile began to diminish at the 1 1/2 hour mark. I admit usually this happens within the first few hours as whimsy is a curious beast. Without distraction it departs for new lands. The moment my smile dropped was the grand reveal I’d be revisiting the same environments a second time. I felt disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to experience fresh new lands, but still forged on. I was still coaxed by the soothing tone so far.
Upon the second loop, I began to get lost really easily. Without the guided level design tunnel from before, it turned into “spot the new destination.” This was the moment that the lack of a map became as apparent and obvious as a bear’s roar. I just simply wanted to know where I had been so I could work out where to go.
Once I high-fived all the new spots in the four seasonal environments at about hour 3, I could sense a smirk from the game. It felt bold, perhaps proud of what it has set up. It then told me how I would have to do a third, and last, loop of the land. At this point, whimsy was far away picking its teenage children up from school while drinking room-temperature Stella. This was exactly when the appeal of the environments had worn down like century old stones that had braved the elements.
While most of the puzzles up to this point were a breeze, suddenly at the end Seasons after Fall decides that it should put up a fight. Where other titles are expected to have a final boss, you get instead a “final puzzle.” While functional, the last puzzles felt more of a spike to deter victory rather than an easing progression to mull over. These “final puzzles” feel as though Seasons after Fall just woke up suddenly and messily created a puzzle quickly to tick a box best left undone.
After 5 hours of this platforming, you may want to know if the stumbling about was all worth it; if the narrative reinforces everything. The short answer is no. During the journey, very little seems explained. What you end up with is loose hints, even with the completist true ending, that amount to an ending that presented an environment more interesting than the plot was. I kept wishing there was a second half based after the events of the game, rather than trapping me with its final conclusion.
The final score is a 5.5. Seasons after Fall feels like the life of a leaf. It starts off vibrant, bringing life and wonder to it. As it runs its course, it becomes less and less noteworthy. It shrivels and yellows, trapped within the knowledge that one day everything ends. Then when the leaf does end, it becomes forgotten on the floor. It returns to mud, leaving behind a place more interesting than the life it lived. Seasons after Fall was a soothing and relaxing journey, but hard to recommend to anyone who isn’t hunting for whimsy. Even then, like the cycle of nature, it dies as quickly as it was born.
A PC Review Code was provided for Seasons after Fall by Focus Home Interactive for the purpose of this review