Ary and the Secret of Seasons (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 01.09.2020

Review for Ary and the Secret of Seasons on PlayStation 4

There were plenty of promising titles showcased at Gamescom in 2017 but Ary and the Secret of Seasons caught a lot of attention, garnering nominations in numerous categories and winning the Best Unity Game of the Year. This 3D adventure title saw a girl controlling the elements to leap between crafted icy platforms in a vibrant cartoonish world. Interests were peaked, to say the least. Even more impressively, this world was the work of a tiny team of fewer than 10 people! It's been some time since that initial showing but now, after many delays, it is finally getting its release. Can it live up to the promise it exhibited back then? Cubed3 finds out.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons is set in a medieval Chinese style world known as Valdi. Here the land is split into four, each permanently in a state of a single season and protected by a Guardian. Suddenly, corrupted crystals begin to rain from the sky, throwing the seasons out of balance. The sunny Summer lands are covered in ice, the Autumn lands an arid desert, and now crystals are falling in the Winter lands - the last ones that stood unaffected. Now, the Guardians are being called together to find some way to resolve this threat.

Unfortunately, when a new threat is spreading across each of the lands, the Guardian of Winter is unable to join his fellow Guardians in uniting to try to stop it. He's in mourning for his apprentice; his apprentice who also just happened to be his son. In his place, his daughter decides to step forward. After having an altercation in the local market with some humanoid Hyena creatures, she finds one of them carrying her brother's wooden sword and decides to head off on an adventure to hopefully find her brother and save her land. Her mother tries to forbid it but Ary cuts off her long hair, steals her brother's clothes, and even her father's artefact, allowing her to make small pockets of winter around her.

This leads to Ary travelling across the land, first to find the other Guardians, and then on a quest to find each of their artefacts to control all four seasons, before finally facing off against a legendary monster that had been sealed away for generations.

The start of Ary is quite hard going. For a game that has been so repeatedly delayed, it looks considerably rough and unfinished, in every aspect. The graphics, in general, look like an early version, the models are basic, textures bland, and environments empty. Not to mention there are regular issues of breaking and pop-ups. Ary's model freaks out often, and at one point during review even got stuck hovering facing up into the sky, arms ahead toward the heavens, instead of in front of her as she tried to push a boulder. Then there are the issues around the things that are working as intended. The other characters Ary interacts with are beyond comically bad in their designs, animations, voice acting... just everything, really. There's an attempt for cartoonish humour here but it so badly misses the mark it's embarrassing, resulting in the something between the asset flips of the worst Steam Greenlight games and the classic YouTube Poop style videos.

Screenshot for Ary and the Secret of Seasons on PlayStation 4

Then there is the core gameplay. This is a 3D adventure title that unashamedly wears its Legend of Zelda inspiration on its sleeve, and that's not a bad thing. Ary starts out with just the ability to create spheres of ice, transforming water to solid surfaces, but as the game progresses new artefacts and abilities are unlocked to overcome new puzzles and backtrack and find secrets previously missed. Ary gains the age-old adventurer's tool of a double jump, ways to spawn spheres of water, climbing gauntlets and many more, and in the execution of these the game really shines. It's a shame, though, that it takes to the 50% mark for this to really happen.

Up until that point there is an awful lot of pointless wandering through empty locations, occasionally having to whack the odd Hyena enemy, although there's no reward for doing so, meaning it's often better to just ignore them. Regularly taking on pointless and dull little side-quests, like playing hide and seek with some kids, or running from one NPC to another. These parts are just plain awful and a huge detriment to the game. It feels like this was created with the dungeons first, then the rest was tacked on, and in doing so, the whole experience feels so much worse than if this had a perfunctory little story tying the different dungeons together.

Now then, those dungeons. This is where the game starts to get good; really good. Not on the first few; only once the 50% mark has been hit and Ary is tasked with heading off to a temple of each season. These are fantastically designed, filled with puzzles that take full advantage of the season powers. Many of these puzzles add in special stones that expand the spheres of season Ary produces and utilising these, in addition to combining spheres, makes for some truly wonderful puzzles. The seasonal spheres cannot be placed atop each other and in later dungeons, so it requires some inventive thinking and dexterity to make the most of Ary's abilities. In one dungeon, there is a section of spiked booby traps that are impossible to traverse. Ary has to use her seasons to generate floating spheres of water and jump between them through the maze of death. In later dungeons, Ary has to pull spheres that change the world around them. Imbuing a sphere with Spring can make vines appear around the area, while imbuing them with ice can craft pathways atop water. Using these with a tool that is unlocked to pull the spheres again makes for some wonderful puzzle designs.

The problem here is that these parts make up for very little of the game as a whole and even whenit works, it struggles with its fundamental issues. In one of the final dungeons, for example, the Temple of Winter, the graphical issues repeatedly manifest. The framerate absolutely plummets in a section of puzzles where ice rises through a building, making entire sections of the area almost unplayable, and then when exploring nearby, the entire lake repeatedly vanishes, leaving Ary swimming through the air. Then, just at the conclusion, the boss encounter utilises a similar raising ice mechanic and again the framerate plummets. All the good that had been done with the inventive puzzles of the temple undone with the pure frustration brought about thanks to the shoddiness of the experience.

Screenshot for Ary and the Secret of Seasons on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Early glimpses of the puzzles and dungeons showed just how great Ary and the Secret of Seasons could be, and while those are realised here, it's just not enough to make up for the numerous issues and missteps. Many players won't be able to even see those best moments unless they have the considerable patience needed to be able to get over halfway through. A true disappointment; there is an awful lot to like here, but ultimately it's hard to recommend this. Strangely, considering how many times it's been delayed, this just feels unfinished, like a preview build.

Developer

eXiin

Publisher

Modus Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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