Master the powers of the four seasons to set a friend free.
PC Release: September 2, 2016
By Ian Coppock
Part of what makes September so agonizing is waiting for fall to arrive. Autumn is empirically proven to be the best season of the year, what with its bright colors, cool temperatures, and near-complete absence of insects. Pumpkin spice lattes are an abomination, but their proliferation at Starbucks and in the media is a small price to pay for enjoying fall colors. To celebrate the onset of autumn, we’re taking a brief break from discussing brand-new games to review Seasons After Fall.
Released just over a year ago by the adorably named studio Swing Swing Submarine, Seasons After Fall is a side-scrolling platformer that’s all about taking in nature. Despite what its name implies, Seasons After Fall is about all the seasons, and all the beauty that each one has to offer. The name “Seasons After Fall” isn’t the best title for a game that espouses all four seasons, but let’s be fair; Seasons In Addition to Fall and Seasons But Also Fall don’t roll off the tongue nearly as well.
Seasons After Fall takes place in a mysterious, gorgeously painted wilderness and stars a magic fox as the player character. This little vulpine critter is no ordinary fox; it’s been imbued with the power to change the season instantaneously. It’s up to the fox to travel the world, learn how to change to new seasons, and ultimately use these abilities to free an imprisoned woodland sprite. Despite her predicament, the sprite is able to guide the player from afar and provides advice on how to progress.
Right away, Seasons After Fall impresses with its delicate artwork. Even in a genre overflowing with hand-painted visuals, the title’s gentle backdrops and intricately painted foregrounds are a cut above the rest. Each region in Seasons After Fall is a nature painting replete with bright, varied colors and thousands of details to spot. These visuals excel at giving Seasons After Fall a heavy nature vibe: that crisp, vivid feeling that comes with taking a walk in autumn woods.
What makes Seasons After Fall‘s artwork even more impressive is that the same scenes are done over in four different seasons. Because players can change between the seasons at will, each region they visit in Seasons After Fall can be presented as a delicate spring vignette or a sweeping autumnal portrait. Each season utilizes its own palette of strong colors; winter is done out in deep blue and stark white while summer is green, green, green. The result of all this painting is that each environment in Seasons After Fall packs both four times the variety and four times the beauty. They’re breathtaking.
Equally breathtaking is the music that accompanies Seasons After Fall‘s autumnal vistas. Swing Swing Submarine hired a string quartet to compose the game’s music, and made damn good use of some damn talented musicians. Most scenes in Seasons After Fall are accompanied by lively string progressions, with a deep cello serving as the base and violins adding an energetic, almost merry vibe to the production. Occasionally the music is improperly balanced and drowns out the game’s other audio, but these instances are mercifully rare.
Seasons After Fall is also content to strip the music out on occasion and leave players alone with the sounds of nature, which change with the seasons. Spring brings with it a cacophony of birds chirping and the sound of rainfall, while summer retains the birdsong but swaps out rain for wind. Winter, as always, is mute. The best and most atmospheric sounds by far come during the autumn sections: leaves crunching, wind blowing… it all reinforces Seasons After Fall‘s lovely outdoor vibe.
So far there’s been a lot of talk about how seasons inform the art and sounds of Seasons After Fall; how do they affect the gameplay? Nearly all of Seasons After Fall‘s challenges are simple environmental puzzles, and this is where the game’s season-changing mechanic comes into play. A geyser isn’t much use to anyone in the springtime, but switch over to winter and it freezes up, making for a great platform. Conversely, a tree isn’t all that lively in winter, but come summertime its leaves make handy ramps.
Seasons After Fall‘s gameplay is easy to understand, but that’s mostly because it’s so simplistic. All the player has to to is behold an object that can produce a platform and switch over to the season that’ll make it do so. This setup leaves the title’s gameplay feeling shallow and light on challenge; inveterate platforming fans will have little trouble causing mushrooms to grow and geysers to shatter. Something more challenging, like timed puzzles requiring quick seasonal changes, would not have gone amiss.
Luckily, Seasons After Fall excels at giving players silky smooth character control. The game’s jumping and running mechanics are implemented with laser precision. Switching between seasons is pretty simple too; just hover in the air for a sec and voila! Autumn awesomeness. Though Seasons After Fall allows players to run and jump with wild abandon, the camera can be a bit slow to catch up, sometimes waiting until the player is at the very edge of the scene before re-centering.
Seasons After Fall‘s PC performance is more enviable than its gameplay. The game runs well on PCs of all shapes and sizes, most likely because of its 2D setup and low-poly paint job. These factors are also probably responsible for the game’s small options menu, which lists out a few resolution sizes, audio options, and its controls. Nothing fancy, but luckily for Seasons After Fall, it has an autumn-level lack of pesky bugs.
Another detail to keep an eye out for among the fall colors is Seasons After Fall‘s story. The game’s plot does a pretty good job of guiding the player through the seasonal vistas (as the fox is a mute and has no verbalized character motivations), but isn’t quite as memorable as said vistas. Players spend most of the game being guided around by a woodland sprite, whose young British voice actress lends peppy energy (and a charming accent) to the production. Later, Seasons After Fall introduces a few guardians who guide the player along at a significantly slower tempo than the sprite.
The game’s actual writing is about three fifths musing about the seasons, two fifths telling the player where to go, and just a dash of plot twist. None of it makes for exemplary exposition and there are a few grammar errors here and there, but it does provide a solid enough foundation for traversing an ever-changing world. Seasons After Fall could stand some more narrative heft, but its art, gameplay and sound design are substantial enough that the game doesn’t feel lesser for not having it.
There are a lot of exciting games coming down the pipe this autumn, but make some time for Seasons After Fall. It’s a delightful little title whose atmosphere successfully captures the joy of nature, though its gameplay could stand some more depth. As an aside, this title is best enjoyed with a slice of pumpkin bread and some dark roast coffee… like really dark roast. Hell, make it a pumpkin spice latte if absolutely necessary.
You can buy Seasons After Fall here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.