Ary and the Secret of Seasons is a game that’s not ashamed to wear its Legend of Zelda heart on its sleeve. The action-adventure puzzler combines some fun puzzles with its not-as-fun combat in a beautiful and varied, but ultimately linear package.
You play as a young girl named Ary, whose brother recently disappeared in the wilderness. She decides the best course of action to save her brother is to do it herself, because seemingly every adult in the game is as incompetent as you are competent.
Normally, I would call this unrealistic, but seeing how people are treating some very serious issues in the real world…
*coughs* Where were we? Right, the game does look nice though. While there are noticeable clippings and imperfections at times, it sticks to an interesting theme for each of their different seasonal worlds. It’s also cool to see environments that are not used to the weather being thrown for a loop, like a typical sunny beachside town covered in snow, with palm trees laden by a white blanket. It’s obviously not going to be a triple-A lifelike experience, but it’s a commendable effort from Belgian indie studio Exiin.
While the overworld contains its fair share of secrets, whether you are a fan of collecting random items or not, it’s the individual temples that contain the bulk of the game.
Surprisingly, the game doesn’t really treat you like a child. While there’s a tutorial section in the early game, you are kinda left to your own devices later on when you discover more powers.
As a person whose lack of talent for puzzles is only outshone by his lack of talent for platformers, I found them rather straightforward but well-designed, requiring you to use your knowledge of the different mechanics in the game to successfully go on to the next stage. They aren’t mind-breaking or innovative, but they are pretty fun. Autosave exists, and you can manually save any time you want, so it’s easy to reset a game state if you want to. But so far, I’ve not run into unsolvable puzzles even after screwing up the first few steps.
Combat is repetitive but at least forgiving. While the boss fights actually requires you to put in some effort in using your array of powers, normal spawns are more annoying than fun. Mobs actually don’t drop anything though, making it a viable strategy to simply avoid them. Key mechanics like parrying have a large time window, making it simple to deal critical damage and avoid normal monsters.
Sometimes, their aggro ranges are actually insane, and the game will literally forbid you from opening chests with monsters nearby, so you are left with no choice but to whack them. Plus, these mobs respawn practically instantly should you enter another instance and double back, which could make it a counter-intuitively frustrating experience to explore.
The most recent version of Ary and the Secret of Seasons had several annoying bugs, such as graphical glitches and an incomplete quest bug that rendered my map finder essentially useless. You can’t actually put a direction marker or even change the priority of your quests, so the direction marker will always lead you to where the game thinks you should go next, rather than what you want to do.
The game has absolutely no qualms in declaring its love for the Legend of Zelda series, and it successfully channels the spirit of the puzzle-action platformer. Unlike the series’ most recent entry, Breath of the Wild, it’s an extremely linear game with puzzles and combat spiking in difficulty as you proceed with each area. It’s also very short, clocking in at about 10 hours.