I’m not a fan of indie games. There I said it feel free to have me assassinated now if it’ll make you feel better but it wont change the fact that I’m more of a AAA murder fest gamer who’s not happy unless there’s at least 4 explosions a second. So when I was given Seasons After Fall to play you can imagine I wasn’t sure how I’d review it in a fair and unbiased way… so I wont.
Seasons is a twee little side scroller from developer Swing Swing Submarine who as far as I can tell make a living creating more and more obscure indie games. I called the game twee because it is. Its so sweet it’s almost given me diabetes and made me question everything I thought I knew about how seasons work. You start off as a small…seed? I guess you could call it a seed but it looks more like a floating ball of green energy so whatever moving on. This seed finds its way to the surface and appears in a quaint forest where a disembodied voice immediately insists it goes on a ridiculous quest while also making you possess the body of an inquisitive fox that just happens to be there and of course why wouldn’t you listen to the first voice you hear! When has that ever gone wrong for a game character? So you take your fox for a spin and make your way around the forest looking for the Guardians, which seem to be gigantic animals also possessed by apparently benevolent seeds. All sounds pretty standard for an indie game right? So here’s the kicker, each Guardian gives you the power to control a different season. Using this power you can change a say sunny forest with flowers and growing flowers to a winter wonderland where the lakes freeze for you to run across and snow drifts give you a platform to jump higher. I’ll admit I was fairly impressed with the mechanic and had a lot of fun trying to find my way though the woods using my apparent godly power over nature itself. It opens up a lot of options for puzzle solving and keeps the game interesting at least for quite some time as you gather the different seasons and try to work out if you need summer for a few flowers or spring to bring a deluge of rain. Weather control isn’t exactly new in gaming but I haven’t often seen it used so well.
The forest you find yourself in is incredibly well made and looks beautiful. With background and foreground blending seamlessly in a painted style that suits the play style perfectly but again isn’t anything new to the indie world with a lot of games using the same technique to act like a painting come to life. Its pretty but it doesn’t do anything for me. What did work for me was how the forest changes atmosphere when you change the season with the colour pallet being more muted in autumn and orange being the man colour then changing to winter and seeing blue and white everywhere. These changes do a lot for the game as I found my mood changing to match the season I was in so that says a lot for environment design on a game that’s so small. I’ll admit that the tiny fox is adorable as well but it’s hard to get past the fact you have to constantly possess the poor creature just because you cant physically do anything in your floaty energy form but I’ve seen worse looking leading characters so I’ll let it off.
So now that I’ve been as nice as I can I’m going to turn onto a few flaws the biggest being the voice acting. So I mentioned the disembodied voice before that tells you what to do but never really why (suspicious…) and that’d be fine but the voice is oddly loud and distorted. It’s almost as though they recorded her in a broom cupboard with a microphone pushed up against the door. It’s incredibly off putting when you’re getting quite invested in the environment and peaceful music and she suddenly jumps in and reems off some pointless tale or opinion. As you can tell she didn’t bother me that much. I just hope they patch her out… story information is over rated anyway. Speaking of information there’s a distinct lack of it throughout the game with only the vaguest hint of which direction you should go and what certain plants or creatures actually do. Is it too much to ask for an arrow every now or then? I get there’s a certain peacefulness to having no HUD that helps the overall feel of the game but in the maze like forest a little guidance would go a long way!
I guess really Seasons After Fall is wasted on a gamer like myself and better suited for someone who likes something a little of the beaten track every once and a while (James I’m looking at you mate!) It’s got something that made me keep playing but not for very long and never for more than about half an hour at a time. Sadly there’s just not a lot to keep you interested in a forest even if you can control the seasons.
I give Seasons After Fall