Ary and the Secret of Seasons is an upcoming 3D puzzle-platformer by eXiin, Fishing Cactus, and Modus Games. The publisher recently sent us a preview build that contains the first three hours of gameplay, as well as a small chunk of a later segment of the game. Here are my impressions after playing the game for around four hours.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons is set in the magical world of Valdi. Long ago, a legendary hero saved the world from the forces of evil, and Valdi has prospered ever since. Recently, however, mysterious forces have been causing havoc with Valdi’s weather, throwing the seasons out of balance.
You play as Ary, the daughter of the Guardian of Winter. Your brother Fynn has recently disappeared, and your father is devastated by his loss. When the Guardians call a meeting to discuss the recent troubles in Valdi, Ary goes in her father’s place as the freshly-promoted Guardian of Winter, and soon becomes wrapped up in a magical adventure to restore order to the land of Valdi.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons features fairly large, interconnected environments full of side quests, hidden chests, collectibles, and dungeons to discover. While many of these activities appear on your minimap, the chests and collectibles often need to be accessed via some sort of platforming or puzzle that is usually solved by using your season-based abilities.
As the new Guardian of Winter, Ary starts with the ability to plunge small areas of the map into winter wonderlands. Changing seasons forms the core foundation of the game’s many puzzles and platforming.
When you activate a season, it will create a small bubble around you of the corresponding season. These bubbles can be expanded by casting your season spells on special stones throughout the world, plunging larger areas into the season you selected.
As you can imagine, each season affects the environment in different, unique ways. Winter will freeze bodies of water, and in many cases creates convenient platforms or bridges of ice that you can traverse. While in summer, some areas might be blocked off with impassible thorny vines.
These changes in seasons affect enemies as well. In winter, some enemies will carry impenetrable ice shields. Likewise, gelatinous slime enemies will turn into frozen blocks of ice during winter, which can be pushed around to solve pressure pad puzzles.
The early portion of the game mostly revolves around using Ary’s winter powers to create ice platforms, or get rid of the aforementioned impassible vines. The small chunk of late game content in the preview gives you access to the other seasons, showing off some of the ways Ary’s powers interact with each other.
While the puzzles are fairly simple in the early part of the demo, having access to the other seasons shows just how clever the game can get with some of its puzzle mechanics.
This later chunk of gameplay features a slingshot, allowing you to create season bubbles from further away. You can also use the slingshot to interact with the environment in other ways, like creating ice platforms by shooting specific objects while in winter.
There are other forms of character progression besides acquiring more seasons. Early on, you gain winged boots that allow you to double jump. The later chunk of gameplay shows off some other mystical items you’ll acquire throughout the course of the game, like the ability to breath underwater.
You can acquire various weapons, clothes, and hats as well, but it seems like they are strictly cosmetic. Instead of being based around your gear, Ary and the Secret of Seasons features various stat-buffing runes you can find or buy that increase max health, damage, and so on.
Rounding out the puzzles and platforming is a fairly basic combat system. You can pull the left trigger to lock onto a specific enemy, and Ary has access to some basic combos, a dodge roll, and a parry that (when successfully timed) puts an enemy off balance and gives you a short window of increased damage against them.
Your season powers come into play in combat as well. I already mentioned that some enemies become stronger or weaker depending on the season, but you can also directly use the seasons to empower yourself.
You build a special ability meter by performing successful attacks, parries, and dodges, and lose the meter when you take damage. When its ready, you can use one of the seasons to unleash a special attack, or buff yourself in some way. Using the winter power, for example, temporarily blocks damage.
While Ary and the Secret of Seasons is pretty promising so far, the demo I played certainly had its share of problems. The main issue I encountered is that the game doesn’t seem particularly well optimized yet, and rarely stayed at a consistent framerate.
I was averaging around 50 FPS in most places on a machine with a 1070. Hopefully this is just an early build before the devs have worked on optimization, and not indicative of the final product.
Framerate troubles aside, I had a lot of fun with the preview build of Ary and the Secret of Seasons. It looks to have a charming cast of characters so far to match its vibrant visuals, and there are some pretty fun platforming and puzzles on display with the game’s season-swapping mechanics. We’ll be sure to come back later with a full review.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons releases September 1st for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons was previewed on Windows PC using a preview copy provided by Modus Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.