The 2016 game Seasons After Fall, developed by Swing Swing Submarine, is the perfect game for cold autumn days. Its rich colors, vividly imagined magical forest and the ever-changing seasons are a great escape from the increasingly dark days of a year drawing to a close. In it, the player controls a sentient seed floating through a forest. The seed then possesses an adorable little fox with glowing turquoise eyes, after which point the player controls the animal. With the fox, the seed will go on a journey to visit the Guardians of the Seasons, great woodland beasts embodying the essence of the yearly cycle. From them, the player collects fragments of the seasons. Once the fragments have been obtained, the player will have the ability to control the seasons and change them at will.
The visual look of the game is just beautiful. The forest is realized majestically, with lighting often emulating rays of sunlight percolating through the canopy. Luminous plants surround everything and tiny fireflies flutter about. Even in the darker corners of the place, you get a feeling of comfort and security, as if convinced that nothing bad ever happens there. The whole game has a very “storybook” kind of look. Indeed, the art style deliberately evokes cartoons and animated films. As a nice detail, the ground responds to the player’s movement: grass sways, flowers bloom and snow puffs under the fox’s paws. The music, with its minimalist ambiance, often sounding like the kind of music one would listen to while meditating, compliments perfectly the journey through that mysterious forest. Every now and then, the soundtrack breaks out into delightful, earthy cello melodies.
The gameplay is very simple. The player moves the fox with the arrow or WASD keys. Once the first two fragments have been obtained, holding down the right mouse button will activate the selection for different seasons from which the player can pick the needed one. And at a left mouse click the fox will let out the cutest little squeaky bark which can be used to interact with things, such as plants and seeds. In terms of the movements of the fox, the controls are perhaps a tad clumsy, especially when turning, but not distractingly so. There is some very light platforming, but the primary focus is on the puzzles: that’s where the ingenuity and originality of being able to change the season at will truly come into focus. Many puzzles require you to interact with things during one season, then double back, change the season to something else, and interact with something you passed by earlier that was previously inactive but may now help you move forward. Due to the simplicity of the gameplay and the relative leisureliness of the puzzles, the game offers not much challenge: it is more about the experience and the pleasure of traversing the woods and interacting with the many wonderful forms of nature found in them.
The game is colorful and adorable to look at, but it does not feel like it’s trying to capitalize on over-the-top cuteness. There is mystery to the imagery, too, and magic, and, if not darkness, then at least the suggestion of it. This is a very benign and innocuous game that is appropriate even for small children. That is not to suggest it is appropriate only for children; this is a game anyone with an appreciation for nature, beauty and mystery will surely enjoy.
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Windows: September 2, 2016
Xbox One, PS4: May 16, 2017
Picture credit: screenshots from the game, taken by the author
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