VIDEO GAMING

Game review: Seasons after Fall is beautiful but rather uninspired

Its gorgeous setting can’t disguise the fact that this is just a walking adventure with some puzzle elements, as if this were a game designed by an artist with insufficient regard for what makes the medium so rich

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 11:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 11:02am

Seasons after Fall

Swing Swing Submarine

3 stars

“Gaming as art” – I harp on about it nearly every week in these reviews, and truly believe that video games can and should be considered a real art form.

But the question here isn’t whether video games are art, but what makes them an art form. The medium’s many elements – visuals, audio, gameplay – all have to come together in a cohesive, complementary fashion to truly work. If a game only operates on the surface level, a pretty product with nothing underneath, it won’t measure up.

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Seasons after Fall (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) mostly belongs to the latter group – while it has an absolutely gorgeous natural setting, it doesn’t fully embrace what makes video games so unique. There are strong puzzle elements behind it, don’t get me wrong, but somewhere in the middle of its limited running time, you may get the feeling you’re playing a video game created by an artist not a game designer.

Players take on a fox that has to travel through a forest in search of fragments of all four seasons, and the meaning behind its strange title becomes clear once you realise you can manipulate the various landscapes. The core goal involves changing seasons when required, so that an impassible river in the summer becomes an easily traversed stretch of ice in the winter.

It’s a fairly clever concept, but unfortunately one that Seasons after Fall never creatively utilises or embraces. And as your creatures crawls his way through season after season, eventually reaching the keys that can restore balance to nature, it becomes obvious the game is basically a walking simulator inside a pretty environment.

But to be fair, what an environment this is, a stunning set of backdrops whose vintage hand-drawn style gives it an immediate feeling of innocence so rare to find in all-ages adventures. As the seasons progress, so too does the game’s visual splendour, and it’s perfectly complemented by the sound design, a stunning mix of orchestral music and theatrical voice acting that you’d expect to find in a brilliant piece of animation instead of a video game.

That’s both a positive and a negative – Seasons after Fall looks, feels and sounds like a great cinematic adventure, and casual gamers eager to explore its fantastic world won’t be disappointed.