Ary and the Secret of the Seasons is third-person, action, puzzle-platformer with a really, really long name, not the longest I’ve seen but damn it’s up there. You play as a young girl named Ary. Your father is the guardian of the Winter Crystal, which is a crystal that leaves everything around it in perpetual winter. This includes your town, which is fine because it and the people live there anyways, it’s all built for winter. Each season has a crystal and a guardian for each crystal. Well, your brother was an apprentice guardian and he went missing, presumed dead, which has left your father despondent. You’ve wanted to be a guardian all your life and you’ve wanted to search for your brother thinking he was alive all this time, though no one will let you, least of all your family. They think he’s dead so they don’t want you running out and getting yourself killed too, and only men can be guardians because: sexism, though there are historical reasons in-game which you can read about if you find a specific set of collectables. Anyways, a call has come in for the guardians to meet, but your father is too despondent so you choose to go in his place… without permission, acknowledgement, or training of any sort. However, by the time you get to the Dome of Seasons for this guardians meeting, it turns out that the other guardians were knocked out and their crystals stolen. It’s up to you to use your lack of training to find all the crystals, take control of their immense power, and return them to the old farts who are supposed to guard them. Oh, and you need to beat up the bad guy and try to find your brother too. You know, easy stuff for a… ummm… eight year old? Twelve? I’m… not that good at guessing ages.
The gameplay is simplistic, on the Xbox One, which I played on, “X” is a horizontal attack, “Y” is a vertical attack, “A” is jump, and “B” is dodge. You fight hyenas, red pandas, and I believe minotaurs with a multitude of melee combat weapons. I’m not sure if any of the weapons change the damage output but they do determine the speed and reach of attacks. There’s also a sling shot but it doesn’t do much damage. You can buy the weapons, though you do find a few in-game, you can also buy costumes for Ary, as well as hats and masks, and even wigs of various colors. Personally I prefer either the ninja or goddess outfit, both with the laurel headgear, it just looks awesome. Though you can’t buy everything in the game, much to my annoyance as I like having EVERYTHING by the end of the game.
You fight with the weapons, you mostly just need to combo and jump or dodge out of the way after a couple hits, it doesn’t take a lot to take enemies down, however jumping and dodging are kind of finicky, sometimes they do what you want sometimes… well they really fucking don’t. Later in the game though, you do get health upgrades, like a metric fuckton of them, which I was grateful for though would have liked them to be spread out throughout the game instead of just being late game upgrades. There are a handful of boss battles, all of them require your magical crystal powers to help you defeat the bosses. Each crystal can be used in any environment other than the one that the environment is in, like if you’re in the summer village you can’t use the summer crystal cause it’s already summer, but you can use the other three. When you use the ability it spawns a bubble around you that is filled with just that season. This is used to solve puzzles, help in combat enemies as well as, as previously mentioned, bosses. For enemies some of them have ice shields which you can’t destroy, so you create a summer bubble and kite them into it and attack them because a shield made of ice isn’t going to exist when it’s summer, if they walk back out into winter it appears again. A few enemies come with other issues that are solved in the same manner. Boss attacks can also be dispelled by using seasons to prevent you from being hit as easily if at all, while letting you attack back.
Most of the platforming requires usage of your powers as well, and all of them are tiny puzzles, not overly difficult but still puzzles nonetheless. Winter can cause water to freeze and sometimes makes platforms of ice appear, Summer melts ice, that’s… that’s it that’s all it’s used for, Spring creates vines that you can climb or use as pathways to walk around and gets rid of water for some reason, and Fall… Fall isn’t used but on rare occasions it really doesn’t do anything. Platforming is simple, you jump, eventually you get the ability to double jump and climb things as well as a few other cool abilities to help you travel around, but it’s mostly just running around and jumping like a crazed spider monkey.
There are some drawbacks to this super cute game though, right now it’s still somewhat glitchy but the devs are working on it, they have a discord and they’re fairly active on it, working on bugs and glitches that have been reported. Some of the notable ones for me, I believe some collectables have disappeared from my inventory, or they aren’t showing on the map like they should, not sure which honestly. One of the boss fights put me in a loop of checkpoint restarting, but that was solved by simply starting the boss fight over again. There are chests on the map that don’t exist and ones that are on the map that shouldn’t be. Side quests don’t get marked and unmarked right, you have a journal that has a quest menu and you can highlight and unhighlight them which SHOULD put them in the left hand side of the screen, only three can be up there at once. While yes, only three do appear up there, unhighlighting missions in the journal doesn’t remove them from the side area. This makes it hard to keep track of stuff sometimes as they don’t update or work in the journal quite right all the time, namely ones with collectables, not all of them say how many you have out of how many are needed in the journal but do in the sidebar. The issues are mostly just tiny things like that, they’re just enough to be really damn annoying but not enough to be like ‘fuck this game’. I have faith this crap will be ironed out as time goes by because, again, the devs are super active on the discord dealing with bug reports. There’s only one glitch that really annoys me that I’m not sure if or when they’ll fix it because they don’t know what’s causing it; the longer you play the game the slower your character’s climbing speed gets, which is a big problem if you’re trying to do everything in the game on your first run. After eight or so hours my character is climbing at a snail’s pace and it is infuriating, and they’re not sure what’s causing it, they’ve known about it for a while but haven’t figured out the culprit. I hope they figure it out soon cause it sucks, it reminds me of that old, what was it Skyrim or Oblivion, issue where the longer you played the game and the more doors you opened the more the game started to slow down when you used magic attacks or something like that. That shit can ruin a game.
Overall, it’s super cute, it’s totally made for kids, but it’s soooooooo fun, it’s so adorable. I really liked it. Even with the annoying bugs that drug it down, it was still good. It’s from a super small dev group and they’re kicking ass. I hope they fix this game up to be the shiny stone that I believe it can be, and make another game, maybe in universe. Cause I’d like to see more of Ary, she’s just too adorable, and I really would like to see the gameplay expanded in a second game with all the lessons they learned from this one.
A review copy of the game was provided by the devs.
darkmikasonfire gives Ary and the Secret of the Seasons the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.