There’s something about Ary and the Secret Season’s that rekindles the feelings of games that I played growing up. From the almost painterly art style, to the traditional platforming and combat, and a magical fairy-tale plot, I’m reminded of titles such as Zelda and Beyond Good &Evil. After spending a few hours with the demo build, I came away really rather excited for its September release.
We play as the titular Aryelle – Ary for short – the youngest child and daughter to an important family in the world of Valdi. The opening scene sets the tone perfectly, with her playing with action figures and narrating her own story; as she gets more and more into it, the music swells and the stationary actions figures feel as though they are about to burst to life. It’s a brilliantly shot scene, and capture’s a child’s imagination perfectly. She’s abruptly interrupted by a call from her Mother downstairs – we all know that feeling – and duly goes to see her. From there we learn that her older brother Flynn has been missing for a few weeks, her father is not taking it well at all so between them they need to handle daily affairs. While it’s perhaps a traditional set up, the charm with which the tale is told kept me interested throughout.
After a trip to the market is interrupted by wild hyenas – fought off by Ary’s deft stick wielding skills – she returns to discover a Council meeting among the Guardians of Seasons has been scheduled. She offers to take her father and brothers place, but is not allowed according to tradition (read: she’s not a dude). Clearly though, this isn’t going to stop our little devil, and she ‘borrows’ her brothers clothes, cuts her hair and sets off on adventure.
What we have then is a fairly traditional action RPG adventure that oozes charm and a child-like sense of wonder. Controlling Ary is simple enough, and she has quite the sizeable jump on her too; the opening market area can see her jumping up to rooftops with ease! She’s perhaps a little too twitchy at times in her movement – I found some of the latter platforming sections tricky to land her accurately – but overall it’s a very fluid system. Combat fares better, with her able to dodge roll, parry, and attack easily using a lock-on targeting system. Groups of enemies offer a good amount of challenge, with various types to contend with. It’s not going to bring the Dark Souls skill set into the fold, but it’s an enjoyable affair that has potential to be something quite excellent. Again, I’m reminded of both Zelda and BG&E here especially – no bad thing at all.
Ary’s Father controls the Winter element of the council, and after she also ‘borrows’ that she’s able to create a sort of frozen capsule – a small dome that encases the affected area in snow and ice. This didn’t come into combat in the demo as much as I suspect it might do later on – mainly she used it to freeze a gelatinous blob enemy, creating a frozen block to stand on granting access to a higher ledge – but traversal through the world continues on the call backs to those aforementioned titles. A seemingly impassable waterfall becomes a frozen blockade at the top of the cliff, granting access to the area behind the water. Or otherwise non-existent snowfall will create a handy ramp up to the next area.
We also got to try out a later area where Ary has access to more of the powers available in aid of taking down the Winter Golem; a massive bird-like creature that puts up a fair fight. The area leading up to the Golem was filled with tricky platforming and combat, and showed off how some of the other seasons will come in to play. Lacking the context of having slowly gotten to grips with each as they were unlocked meant that things were initially confusing to get to grips with, but I don’t imagine this to be an issue come launch. Using the Spring and Autumn stones in addition to the Winter stone, Ary is able to affect different switches to unlock new areas, as well as change the immediate vicinity around her. A ball needs dragging from the bottom of a lake, and infusing it with the Spring power meant that the water around us evaporated, making quick work of dragging it to its destination. Again, the twitchy nature of Ary meant that some of the latter area here were quite tricky; one section sees us racing against a moving obelisk that is enhancing our Winter power, all while trying to manually place platforms as we ascend. There were a fair few bugs too which didn’t help a lot of the time, though obviously as a preview build that’s somewhat to be expected.
Bugs and slightly twitchy controls aside, I have high hopes for Ary. I came away from my time with Ary and the Secret of Seasons eagerly anticipating the final release. It has a wonderful sense of child-like adventure and wonder, and some fun, challenging combat and traversal.
This game was previewed on PC (via Steam). All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.