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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (477)

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Pikmin 4 4/5
No Man's Sky 4/5
Dragon Quest Monsters: ... 4/5
Assassin's Creed IV: Bl... 2.5/5
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands 3.5/5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift A... 4.5/5
Super Mario Bros. Wonder 4.5/5
The Alliance Alive 2/5
Catmaze 4.5/5
Turnip Boy Commits Tax ... 4.5/5
Seasons After Fall 3/5
Rayon Riddles - Rise of... 0.5/5
World to the West 4/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Streets of Kamurocho 2.5/5
Aeon of Sands - The Tra... 2.5/5
Greak: Memories of Azur 3.5/5
Yaga 2.5/5
Riverbond 3/5
Bug Fables: The Everlas... 4.5/5
Front Mission 1st Remake 1.5/5
Middle-earth: Shadow of... 3.5/5
Bladed Fury 3.5/5
Ruzar - The Life Stone 3.5/5
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin 3.5/5

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Seasons After Fall   PC (Steam) 

Oh, Another Artsy-But-Boring Indie Platformer    3/5 stars

2016 marked the release of “Seasons After Fall” (“SAF”) the third game from French Indie developer, Swing Swing Submarine, and the first of their titles that did anything to capture my interest. I was quickly taken in by the gorgeous hand-drawn, hand-animated visuals, and a title perfectly composed to invoke feelings of melancholy and false nostalgia. The game eventually went on sale and I picked it up during a Steam Sale in 2018, allowing it to languish in my backlog until the urge to binge on shorter Indie games struck me. And strike me such an urge did, yet like so many other eye-catching Indie games before it, the interest is only skin deep.

“SAF” is a gorgeous game, as anyone can see from the screenshots and videos on its digital store pages across the various platforms that support it. It’s a Unity Engine game, though, so unless the development team really knows what they’re doing, quirks are bound to slip into the final product, regardless of how beautiful and stylish the art team’s work. And, yeah, there are some quirks, but generally fewer than other Unity games… but they are glaring.

Audio is just as impressively well-done as the visuals, with full voice acting and a beautiful original soundtrack. The vocal cast consists of two veteran voice-actors from the UK (for the English language version, at least), who do an absolutely spectacular job.

Technically, “SAF” is a very polished final product, with native Xinput support and auto-saving. However, one big Quality of Life feature that is obviously missing is any kind of mapping system. While the game world isn’t all that big, a map would go a long way to mitigate some of the confusion that occurs when taking longer breaks between sessions. However, the biggest and most frustrating technical quirk is the fact that the game has a noticeable amount of input lag when compared to other platformers, Indie or otherwise. As a result, while it looks and sounds incredibly nice, “SAF” doesn’t ‘feel’ very good at all.

“SAF” begins by introducing us to our hero, a ‘Seed’ of some sort of light/energy/spirit-stuff that bubbles to the surface before emerging into the world of nature, where an invisible goddess tells us a bit about ourselves. Most pertinent on the goddess’ mind, though, is the fact that she seems to be ‘stuck’ in an ancient sanctuary deep in the woods and needs the Seed to inhabit the body of an animal in order to travel to the four corners of the forest and retrieve the powers of the Four Seasons from the Guardians of the Seasons – giant animals with spiritual powers of their own.

What seems at first to be a simplistic story about naturalism and protecting the natural order quickly begins to take some (not-completely-unexpected) twists and turns, leading our Seed – and the unlucky fox possessed by it – to unlock more of the mysteries of the game’s world.

Unfortunately, none of these mysteries are particularly deep or interesting. While the heavy-handed environmentalist allegory I was initially expecting never manifested, “SAF” instead opts for some impotent navel-gazing and doesn’t really go anywhere with its plot or its worldbuilding.

Of course, part of the reason why “SAF” struggles to make itself narratively compelling is that it’s incredibly, incredibly short, clocking in at around 6 hours for the complete experience. However, I was quickly bored by the game after less than 1 hour, and managed to stretch the experience out over multiple weeks because I wasn’t motivated or excited to go back to it. There was no, ‘What happens next?!’ to pull me back, rather there was an overwhelming sense of ennui.

“SAF” is one of those artsy-fartsy Indie games that tries to pin everything on a beautiful presentation and compelling narrative, with minimalist, bare-bones gameplay mechanics hastily tacked-on, seemingly as if the developers remembered that they were making a game instead of an animated short film at the last minute.

In short, “SAF” is a 2D Platformer with some of the most tepid Metroidvania elements, that doesn’t do any of its mechanics well. First, and most noticeable is the omnipresent input lag I mentioned in the Presentation section above. It really does make every moment playing the game ‘feel’ bad and un-fun. Of course, none of the platforming is particularly challenging, there are no enemies or combat mechanics, and there’s no way to die, so at least failing to make a simple jump multiple times in a row due to input lag isn’t punishing like certain other clunky-on-purpose games. Indeed, I don’t think “SAF” is actually clunky-on-purpose, but is just poorly put together.

The central gameplay mechanic that makes “SAF” stand out is the ability to manipulate the titular seasons at will. The player starts the game in the Summer, and must visit the Guardians in each of the game’s 4 regions in order to unlock the ability to swap to that Guardian’s season. Seasonal changes manipulate a wide variety of things, from mushrooms that only sprout in one season, to winds that only blow in one season, to geysers whose heights vary by season, to water that can be frozen or manipulated in other ways depending on the season. Naturally, as a platformer, changing up the seasons is necessary to make new paths forward and access previously inaccessible areas, ala Metroidvania. However, with no built-in map to keep track of where the player has been, backtracking and exploring never feels particularly rewarding, especially with how claustrophobic the game’s field of view tends to be.

Outside of platforming, there are a handful of puzzles to solve. These are mostly clever, but can occasionally be confusing due to clues and essential solutions appearing in previously-explored sections of the environment with no indication that something might be different.

I did not enjoy my time with “Seasons After Fall.” While it has the audiovisual puissance to make for a compelling short film, as an interactive game it leaves a lot to be desired. Like so many other artsy Indie platformers before it, like “Never Alone” and “Limbo,” the gameplay just isn’t fun, and as is the case with such games, stylish visuals can’t carry the day alone.

Presentation: 4.5/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 2.5/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5



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