When a game goes beyond gameplay and becomes a work of art to be appreciated and enjoyed, it is a masterpiece. Seasons after Fall combines great gameplay with a story that is more of a performance then just a simple game. Yes, Seasons after Fall is simple in its design, but it’s the art and the storytelling combined with the gameplay that makes it good.
At the beginning the very first thought that came to me was Disney’s classic Fantasia. Here Disney combined classical music with characters telling a story not with words but with their performance. The two segments from Fantasia that Seasons after Fall remind me most of are Dance of the Hours and Nutcracker Suite. Most of all the Nutcracker Suite because the segment was a dance through the changing seasons. This is what Seasons after Fall does, it tells a story with intermittent narration but mostly the actions of the protagonist and interaction with both nature and magic.
A magical journey through the world Seasons after Fall begins with an orb of light ascending the dark and foreboding underground world of roots. You must navigate around the roots and communicate to the flowers to let you pass. During the journey you must also take out other orbs in your way to reach the top and be born into the world. A narrator with the voice of an innocent young girl speaks to you and calls you a seed. It is not clear what the seed is but being just born you are instructed to take a body. As a new seed you are eager to explore but are bound to follow the mysterious voice that guides you. The voice sounds kind and helpful and tells you of the ritual that must be performed with all the fragments protected by the guardians of the seasons. To what purpose is unclear, though throughout the journey the voice becomes impatient and very eager to see the ritual through at any cost.
Before the little seed begins the journey to find the guardians and take the fragments it needs a body. As just an orb of energy you are limited to how the world can be explored and an animal body is necessary. This seed finds a body in a small unsuspecting fox who comes into the sanctuary. The poor fox, a timid creature, was summoned by the guide as a present for the seed. In the opening the fox is running toward a pillar of seeds emerging from the ground. You, the seed, are instructed to possess the little fox. In this game the seed doesn’t just go into the fox. A classical score sounds and the fox is lifted into the air as the seed magically takes control of the little fox. It is the guide that assists the seed in taking the body and then tells the fox to go find the first guardian.
The first guardian is a large grizzly bear in the forest that protects winter. Once the fox has winter it goes back to the sanctuary, the seed exits the fox and through a ritual is combined with winter. Before entering the fox in the sanctuary the seasons, also magical orbs, act as guides back to the sanctuary. These seasons can also be activated. To activate a season at this point the fox gives two barks. Once the season is combined with the seed it reenters the fox and the world turns to the new season. Only after Autumn is combined with the fox can the fox use magic to change the seasons anytime. For us players it’s the R1 button on a controller or left mouse button. Being able to change seasons is very important to pass through areas.
Five minutes of gameplay from Seasons after Fall:
As the little fox your goal is to navigate through the world and overcome natural barriers and obstacles. The little fox, a happy but timid creature, runs and bounds through nature jumping on ledges and plateaus, jumping across gorges, and climbing trees to get to other areas. Sometimes the challenge requires calling upon the seasons.
Its fall and a vent of steam appears but you need to be up on the ledge of the next cliff. You summon winter to freeze the water and leap on top. Giant mushrooms can be used to also get up onto higher places, they open in fall and summer but close up in other seasons. Another obstacle is the fireflies. A special pattern appears on two nearby trees. In order to open the area, the fox must use bark to set the fireflies into floating stones in just the correct patterns. The fireflies are connected by a electrified strand and when it is just positioned right the barriers move down.
The fox has the power of the seasons and one season is Spring. Spring brings rain to grow trees, which can be used to climb up or move to the next cliff. In some instances the fox must find a way to break through barriers. Our seed comes up with some clever and ingenious ways to overcome obstacles using the talents of the fox, nature, and magic. Throughout the game there are what appears to be living rocks. They have legs and kind of resemble hermit crabs. As they move away from the fox, bark can push them in the right direction, they grow. You can also send them to water to grow faster. Once full size, placing them on a barrier can break it.
Because you have to figure out how to get the fox to his destination I would consider Seasons after Fall a puzzle as well as adventure game. Of all the seasons’ guardians Summer is the most challenging guardian to get to. This involved fireflies and intentional misdirection on part of the guardian. After passing the puzzle you meet the guardian, a giant cicada in among the fireflies. Meeting the guardians and infusing the fox with the seasons was like a ballet. The dancers performed their dance to send off the season giving the fox their power.
At first I thought this game was short and then the story reached an emotional and surprising climax. I do not know ow the story ends at this point but here I will leave it for other gamers to enjoy. What I can say is it is a story of a fox and seed that overcomes an external power to be free to choose a path of its own or that of the guardians. Without action, violence, or re-spawning, this performance and solving challenges in nature is a fantastic journey that everyone of all ages and species can enjoy. My dog enjoys watching the fox running and jumping, and she will not pay attention to any other game. As a fox running through the seasons with a classical score and sounds of nature playing in the background this game is both an escape and a time of wonderment and magic.
The game is simple and straight forward in the controls. As this was reviewed on the PC I tried both mouse and keyboard and controller. The controller was better once the fox gathers the seasons. In the long run a controller made it easier to control the actions of the fox and the magic of the seasons. The only challenge was finding ways to move through an area and pass barriers. I really liked the way the developers used nature to solve these puzzles. Finding a seed then using the rains of Spring to grow a tree and get across a gorge was genius and added the power of nature to the story. The secret is in the seasons and knowing which works for an area. Another nature use was the cannon plants. These giant plants had mouths that formed and launched giant snow balls that the fox could jump onto and up to the next level. A bark caused magic to touch the organic generation part of the plant to push liquid to the organic cannon and winter froze it to create the snow ball. They also sprinkled water onto seeds to grow trees in Spring.
There are so many different areas to explore from forests, to caves, to the mountains, and plains. Each had a different landscape and scene that changed between seasons. The seasonal art was so well done to truly capture the most prominent aspect of each season. Spring was green and blue with rain and the growing of plants. Autumn was reds and browns with leaves blowing around, it was the end of green things and the beginning of the cold dead winter. Winter was cold, ice and snow, with lots of darker blues and the loss of vibrant colors. Summer was a flourishing of living things and vibrant colors. With the seasons the fox could only control specific things. When running through the world you can pick any season but its obstacles that require changing seasons. When stuck in water change to winter and run on the ice.
Seasons after Fall has gorgeous and meaningful art to go with the story. It is digital art done in an impressionist style giving life to the creatures and nature. The art and the sounds make the story.
Seasons after Fall combines both storytelling and gameplay to create a good adventure/puzzle game. The game takes nature and adds challenges to keep players engaged. Using the seasons to aid in the fox’s goals was genius and just gives it a magic and fantasy aspect. A masterpiece of art and gameplay this game is recommended for people of all ages to enjoy and to be more than just a game but an experience.