Ary and the Secret Of Seasons has been in development for quite some time now and has finally seen the light of day on the Nintendo Switch. It’s one game that made its name for the many bugs that were left unchecked, but how well does the game really stand alongside its unwanted anomalies?
When the seasons are in disarray and the winter guardian is still in grieving, the troublesome Ary must take it upon herself to act in his stead. She has to learn to manipulate the seasons and figure out the cause of the mayhem throughout the lands of Valdi.
The story begins strong and humorous, but can often be predictable. Aside from Ary, a majority of the characters don’t possess anything particularly interesting about them. Some had the potential to do better, but lacked the appeal they could have provided.
Ary and the Secret Of Seasons will have you traversing the world of Valdi to complete quests, fight monsters, and clear temples. There are many places to explore and a lot of NPCs to interact with. A casual run of the game can come up to 20 hours of gameplay, but the time can significantly be reduced depending on how proficient you are at puzzle solving.
Controls aren’t too difficult to learn or use, and there’s always the option to invert between two actions to suit your button-mashing preference. Aiming with the right analog stick is vital during specific parts of this game, and the lack of motion controls may make it difficult for some people to cope with, but it’s not something you won’t be able to adapt to for the type of gameplay offered.
Exploration and Quests
There is a lot of exploring to do in Ary and the Secret Of Seasons. Reaching certain destinations can be a puzzle in itself. A map normally points you in the right direction, but arriving at that point can get tricky. You will have to figure out the correct path to take to reach the destination. The orange icon on the map that’s supposed to show you where to go isn’t always straightforward.
As Ary advances in the story, she’ll come across various NPCs who give her quests. Quests in this game are delightful to complete and a fantastic distraction from the primary objective. They’ll frequently consist of searching or puzzle-solving, most of which aren’t complicated. There is a noticeable lack of quests around the halfway mark of the game, which is a bit unfortunate.
From time to time, Ary will have to show off her swimming skills and reach places only accessible through the activity. Swimming above water isn’t a great experience, but the true beauty comes when diving becomes an option. Swimming underwater in the game is far superior to swimming with your head above the water. The visuals are of a higher quality and more pleasing to the eyes, often with underwater sights to see.
Fast traveling will become available to you after specific points of the game. As you won’t have to go back and forth regularly throughout Valdi, it doesn’t serve a crucial role; however, it’s still a great addition to have in case you want to return to admire a town’s beauty or complete unfinished quests.
The combat in the game is open-field live-action with a sword for close combat encounters and a slingshot for long-range, consisting of dodges and parries to help fight off enemies that get in your path. Ary has a rising number of hearts that increase the further you progress in the game. Learning the basics isn’t complicated because of the simplistic combat system, but even with its simplicity, it remains impressive, especially with the voice acting that accompanies it. Harnessing the power of the seasons can also turn the tide of fights in your favor, but may take some time getting used to.
Fights are normally smooth but can dip in framerate when a higher number of enemies are present on the screen. It does not drastically hinder combat, but can seem irritating to people who wish for fluid gameplay. Some boss fights introduce puzzle elements to solve while fending them off. Quick thinking and reflexes are essential in those situations to defeat these challenging foes. There aren’t many bosses to fight, but each new one tries to surpass the impressions of the previous.
The game makes it easier to lock onto enemies with the press of a button. While not necessary, it makes it easier to target specific enemies in the open-world environment. The developers also understand that aiming with the right analog stick on the console can be dishearting to some. That’s possibly why aiming with the slingshot slows the flow of time when jumping to help make more accurate shots. It likely won’t come in handy for a large portion of the game, but it is useful during certain scenarios.
Ary is capable of improving her combat skills along her journey. Instead of distinctive attacks to utilize in battle, the martial arts teacher will sell her stat upgrades for a price. The early upgrades begin affordably but spike up in price the higher the tier of the upgrade.
Some of these upgrades increase Ary’s strength, agility, and health regeneration. It doesn’t get too advanced and changing difficulty may be favored over spending your hard-earned money on these upgrades. Clothing purchases may be the more desirable option for some.
If the current difficulty isn’t to your liking, rest assured knowing that the game has four difficulty levels — easy, normal, hard, and insane. These difficulty levels are interchangeable at any time during the game and they tweak the damage you receive from enemies. The tougher ‘hard’ and ‘insane’ difficulties make dodging and parrying more viable, as you take massive damage from the stronger enemies. The ‘normal’ difficult begins tough, but later becomes extremely easy.
Dungeons and Puzzles
The game doesn’t have many dungeons, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Each temple is large and riddled with puzzles, sometimes even traps and enemies. Ary must take advantage of seasonal spheres to solve the varying puzzles that are thrown at her. As she progresses through these dungeons, she will acquire new gear that expands the scope of what she is capable of achieving. This means more elaborate puzzles to solve, which is always a good thing for those who love solving them.
The obstacles they throw at you aren’t too difficult to overcome; however, they do require a fair share of time to carefully survey the area and to come up with a solution. Creativity may also come into play with how you tackle these puzzles. Along the way, you’ll learn about each season’s power and you’ll need to apply newfound as well as previous knowledge to advance. Solving these puzzles are entertaining, but can sometimes get frustrating with the rise of failure. Occasionally you may have to think outside the box to figure out a solution, which can sometimes leave you in awe.
You play the game as a standalone character, Ary. Her clothes, headwear, and weapon are interchangeable. These changes are solely for aesthetics and do not modify her stats in any way. There aren’t many weapons to choose from, but there is a generous variety of clothes and headgear to choose from. The majority will be available to purchase while others can be claimed as rewards from completing quests.
Graphics and Performance
The world of Valdi is beautiful. For an indie game, the developers have gone beyond the call of duty to deliver a magnificent 3D world with a charming protagonist and menacing bosses. Controlling Ary’s movement is smooth throughout the game and the developers have even implemented an idle animation where she acts differently during specific circumstances, fitting for the type of character she is. Not all is well visually, though. Rocks aren’t always detailed enough to explain how they can be ascended and passing through waterfalls isn’t the greatest of experiences.
Ary and the Secret Of Seasons isn’t a broken game per se, but it has more than its fair share of bugs. From unresponsive characters and objects to a flashing layer of color. Most aren’t game-breaking and might eventually get patched, but some do exist that halt gameplay until a reboot. It can get as bad as Ary running off of the screen, enemies taking a whack at her when interacting with an NPC, and passing through a wall to exit at the top of a skyscraper building. Some of the harmless bugs are interesting to come across, such as the scaling of trees, while some hinder gameplay like the random muting of sound during the first temple boss fight. Regardless of the large number of bugs, the game can still be completed.
One of the strong points of Ary and the Secret Of Seasons is its soundtrack. It’s filled with melodious tunes fitting for a world of exploration. It also isn’t afraid to swap to something more upbeat that helps rev you up for a fight. Marcus Hedges did a wonderful job of composing each song, and not one seems out of place throughout the entirety of the game.
Regardless of the many bugs Ary and the Secret Of Seasons presents, the game remains a joy to play. It excels in puzzles where you must put your creativity to the test. Combat, while simplistic, adds the necessary touch the game needs. Boss battles shine brighter with the mixture of combat and puzzle elements to overcome. More of it would have been much appreciated, as well as pacing adjustments between some of the game’s temples so something doesn’t feel amiss.
Ary and the Secret Of Seasons gets a 7/10.