Not too long ago, the very idea of a 2D side scrolling puzzle platformer developed by an independent studio was enough to raise an eyebrow. When this style of game made a resurgence back on the Xbox 360 we were treated to games that highlighted how far technology has come by stepping back into old formulas and reimagining them.
But over time the genre has become a tad over-saturated and what once seemed like a fresh, innovative and exciting style of game was now formulaic and predictable. They seemed to have adopted their own traits far too quickly. Stylised graphics with quirky soundtracks and a gameplay gimmick to play off of.
Since then, only the very best have been worth checking out. Inside
, Little Nightmares
and Super Time Force
are worth your time but others that may well be a decent experience are no longer seen as essential because they join the pile of hundreds of similar games that don't quite reach these high standards.
On paper Seasons After Fall
appears to be a by-the-numbers modern puzzle platformer. Visuals that look hand-painted, violins smothering the soundtrack and a mechanic that allows you to switch which season the level is set in on the fly but after an hour or so and your sighing will stop and you've seen it all.
The story behind Seasons After Fall
is one wrapped in mystery. You control a spirit and are guided by a voice. Soon enough your spirit takes control of a fox's body and you set off into a forest to track down the guardians of the seasons. It's all very fairytale to start with, but there are a few surprises along the way to make things a little more complicated and interesting.
As you meet the guardians the game begins to open up. With each meeting you return with a new ability to change seasons opening up new paths and approach increasingly complex puzzles. My main gripe with the early part of the game is that the idea it's based on is good but the execution doesn't really have much to do with the theme.
For example, it's understandable that a leaf will be dried up and dead during the winter, but alive and can be used as a platform in the spring, but the vast majority of the things you do in the game bear no relation to the seasonal changes whatsoever. We all know it's a bit windy in the autumn, but I don't see how that relates to gusts of wind suddenly lifting a leaf off the the ground to help you reach a high platform.
For the most part it feels like you're simply pressing a button to change what objects do around you and if you press the wrong one you cycle through the various seasons until you stumble across the right one. That's not to say there's no merit in finding some solutions. There are some that make sense, they're just a little more rare than they need to be in order to get you to invest in the set-up.
There is, however, a larger problem with Seasons After Fall
that stops this game from being essential. Or I should say a series of problems that all feel slightly related in one way or another and they can be summed up by saying that the whole experience feels a little laboured.
From loading times to controls, Seasons After Fall
stutters throughout and slows everything down enough to feel frustrating. Some puzzles can take a long time to set up as you work your way up platforms that require multiple season switches to activate, only for the slight delay on jumping causing you to fall down to the bottom and start it all over again.
The switching of the seasons isn't as snappy as it needs to be either. It's not something you'll worry about in the early stages as it only takes around 3 seconds to switch from Summer to Winter but as you progress you'll need to switch more often and those seconds add up.
Then there's the progression. Getting to the point where you have access to all four seasons seems a little drawn out as you make your way to a guardian, only to have to go back the way you came to continue on your journey. The game does introduce new puzzles during your return trip but it's not enough to make things feel fresh.
Then there's the problem with the competition. I enjoyed Seasons After Fall
- it's a good game with some nice ideas, wonderful graphics and some interesting twists along the way, but if you ask me what 2D platformer you should buy this won't be near the top of my list.
It's just hard to recommend over the likes of Inside, Braid
and even Unravel
. Maybe that's harsh. I'm comparing this against some true classics, but when the genre is so over-saturated the ones that fall even slightly short instantly drop way down the list.
However, if this is the type of game that you really enjoy then the minor frustrations will do little to dampen what is at times a fantastic experience and if you've already played through the big hitters then Seasons After Fall
offers just enough for you to come out the other side satisfied if a tad underwhelmed.
+ Gorgeous to look at
+ Wonderful Soundtrack
+ Some clever puzzles
- Poor controls
- Slow loading times
SPOnG Score: 7/10