Ary & The Secret of Seasons is about a young girl and her journey to discover the truth behind the mysterious changing of the seasons. Ary picks up the mantle from her missing brother by becoming the guardian of winter. It is up to her to travel across Valdi to the Dome of Seasons and join the Guardians of Seasons. In the opening of the game it felt as if I was playing a tribute to the great Disney movie Mulan. Ary isn’t allowed to be a guardian so she decides to cut her hair and dress as her brother in order to sneak out of town.
The game starts slow giving you the opportunity to learn the basics. As I made my way across the land fighting the rather comical yet somehow lovable hyenas, I found myself enjoying the way you use winter in order to snuff out secrets. The combat isn’t overly complicated, attack with your sword, roll out of incoming attacks or parry for a nice one-two combo. You can use season changes in combat to help dispatch enemies, however I didn’t find this tactic all that useful in most cases. This is where one of my biggest issues reared it’s ugly head. There is no reward in fighting. No level up, no skills gained, nothing. In order to obtain these things you must find coins that you use to purchase items and upgrades from merchants.
But how do you find these coins? Well, by locating chests. Some are easily found tucked away in a corner, others are only revealed through solving puzzles. Easy enough, right? You can obtain a small amount of coins by completing side quests but they become tedious and more of a distraction. Don’t get me wrong about the combat, it isn’t terrible and a mixture of using the slingshot along with the sword is fun, it just isn’t rewarding. The story progression in the game was something that really surprised me. While the game does start off slow once the story throws in a few twists I began to enjoy it so much more. The dialogue can be silly and downright comical at times. Some of the cutscenes even have voiceover while the other times you get a laugh or an oddly placed grunt. To me this added to the charm of the game and honestly it’s packed full of charm. I found it at times reminding me of watching a Saturday morning cartoon with its goofy dialogue and over the top self awareness.
Visually the game gets better as it goes and I know that sounds crazy, but it does and it works. Not only does the game progress in visuals but the puzzles get more elaborate and well…way more difficult. At first I could solve a puzzle no problem. Move object from point A to point B and a door would open. I found myself struggling later yearning for simpler times. In order to solve some of the more difficult puzzles I had to traverse crazy obstacles all while changing the seasons to fit accordingly. For example, in one area I had to lock an object in place using the winter season. Then I would have to use the summer season to melt ice so I could move an object into another room and these types of puzzles only become more difficult.
I really was shocked by the game’s progression. It was as if the developers were writing a script for a movie but then decided to make a game instead. The game isn’t free of issues though. There are minor issues such as screen tearing, NPCs not responding to completed quests and a few glitches to some of the puzzles. Luckily for the most part these are all minor in the game and I didn’t experience any crashes or game breaking bugs.
Ary and The Secret of Seasons is a fun puzzle adventure game light on the combat with few boss fights. The game relies heavily on the story and its puzzles. It does these things well enough to keep you interested for the entirety of the game. There is some pacing issues clearly but the stale combat hurts it the most. Minor issues though isn’t enough to bring this game down. When the music kicks off and it is great, it packs a wonderful punch. Add in the surprisingly good voiceover, sweet visuals and you find yourself with a pretty good game.
Game provided for the PS4 for review.