The humble fox, where would we be without it? For starters, the Lylat system would have fallen to Andross and his evil armies decades ago, the animals of Farthing Wood would never have made it to White Deer Park, and, er, that Disney version of medieval Nottingham where all the inhabitants are woodland animals would still be toiling under Prince John’s ludicrous tax laws. Looking to further add to these (sort of) legendary tales of fox glory are Swing Swing Submarine, with their Metroidvania-like, 2D puzzle/platformer, Seasons After Fall.
Asides from notably changing the land’s aesthetics, by drastically altering the weather and lighting, each season also has its own unique effect on the platforming side of things. Autumn causes mushrooms to expand their caps, creating makeshift platforms, winter freezes lakes, making them easier to cross, summer sees trampoline-like plant pods bloom into life, while spring rains raise water levels. Often, you’ll need to combine these abilities in order to progress deeper into an area, such as raising a water level with spring rains, and then freezing it with winter’s cold, but doing so, for the most part, feels rudimentary, and you’re never really presented with any kind of obstacle that requires too much thought.
As well as the four seasons, there’s a small selection of local wildlife scattered throughout the game that players will be able to utilise from time to time, including some insect-like critters that have a smack of the metroid about them. Depending on the type, these can be used to grow mushroom platforms, sprout new trees, or break down progress-halting barriers. There’s also a Super Mario-style Piranha Plant that, depending on the season you currently have selected, will create makeshift platforms by spitting out snow, or douse well-placed tree seedlings with water to make them grow.
Watching the brush-tailed avatar trot, sprint and leap through the beautifully hand-painted landscape was one of the highlights of the game.
As a key feature, the game naturally relies heavily upon its season switching mechanic, but the small animation that comes with every change, in which the fox is lifted into the air and the surrounding landscape is transformed, isn't as rapid as it could be, which can get a little tedious when even crossing a small area can sometimes require three or four changes. Also, if you happen to be standing on a moving platform when switching seasons, which is at times necessary, then the brief moment you spend hanging in the air is usually just long enough for the platform to move out from under your feet, causing you to fall.
Little issues like this, coupled with floaty controls and some occasional input lag, cement the feeling that Seasons After Fall was never intended to appeal to hardcore platforming fans, with the game relying instead on its charm, unique presentation and novelty value to keep the player invested, much like Unravel did when it released just over a year ago.
Unlike Coldwood and EA’s title however, whose thread-based puzzles and nostalgia-inducing narrative made it easy to forgive the game its basic platforming mechanics, Seasons’ issues - despite its beautiful visuals, soundtrack and sympathetic protagonist - are harder to look past.
● Lovely, hand-painted art
● Charming soundtrack
● An endearingly cute protagonist
● Manipulating the seasons is cool…
● …but feels like it could have been implemented better, especially in puzzles
● Floaty controls
● No objective indicator makes it easy to get lost