Ary and the Secret of the Seasons
Ary and the Secret of the Seasons wants to scratch a nostalgic itch. Indeed, from what I saw during a hands-off presentation, the stylish, vibrant world and adventure platformer mechanics brought to mind older games like Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda and Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter. In a generation that gives us so many explosions, world destroying mgical abilities, and larger than life villains, a game like Ary and the Secret of the Seasons is a break from all that and indulge in some classic platforming action.
The idea behind Secret of the Seasons is the main character’s ability to control the weather by creating weather bubbles based on the four seasons. Whether your dropping them as bubbles on the ground are shooting them as projectiles, you’ll use the power of the seasons to solve puzzles and fight enemies. You take control of Aryelle, a young girl whose world used to be in balance until an evil mage warped the land, mixed up the seasons and put things out of whack, to use the technical term. For the good of the people, Aryelle sets out to restore the seasons in their rightful places, making use of a special amulet that lets her channel them to serve her specific needs. Collecting them one at a time, this amulet can create pockets of weather—fall, summer, winter, and spring—that have unique elemental properties that affect enemies, bosses, and even the landscape.
What I really liked out of the demo (apart from how gorgeous it looked) was seeing how the seasonal powers work in the game. Everything caught inside the weather bubble you create is affected by that particular season. For example, while standing on a dock overlooking water, Winter covers everything inside it in snow. In this case, the calm, soothing lake was partially frozen and the dock covered by a layer of snow while everything outside the bubble was unaffected. This eventually turned into a platforming sequence as the winter bubble floated upwards, revealing an icy tower to climb while fighting monsters that only appeared in winter. Weather also affects boss encounters. I only saw one boss monster in the demo, a giant bird creature with large, flaming wings. The trick was to use Aryelle’s slingshot to fire the appropriate weather pellet to create a bubble of rain around the creature, extinguishing its wings and giving you an opening to attack while it lies on the ground stunned.
Ary and the Secret of the Seasons definitely gave me some old school gaming vibes. I was intrigued by the premise and the mechanics and look forward to playing it myself later this year.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page
Emotions are a difficult thing to cope with, especially for children. Pixar made an entire movie about that. Kids have it pretty easy: play all day, explore the world, watch cartoons as much as possible, and make new friends. Once in a while, though, an event disrupts a child’s innocence and carefree view of the world, leaving them to struggle with new feelings and emotions. That is the case with Izzy, a young girl who dreams of being a writer and has a special relationship with her grandmother. An aspiring writer of fantasy stories, Izzy can’t help but dote on her kindly grandmother, sharing their time together through a series of interactive entries she keeps in her diary. When Izzy encounters a family emergency, her writing is affects the fantasy world of Estoria, a world she created to tell stories. The game, as it as described, becomes an adventure through the stages of grief as Izzy attempts to cope and come to terms with outside events shaping her life.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page was described to me as an atmospheric puzzle game where you move between Izzy’s diary and Estoria. Whether you’re walking across platforms made from sentences or exploring Estora, you’ll encounter puzzles that require you to grab words and phrases out of the aether to move forward. Controlling Izzy is fun because there are opportunities to shape the stories and characters in different ways that can my make playthrough a little different from yours. Playing in Estoria plays more like a traditional platform that incorporates the same style of word puzzle as those found in Izzy’s diary. By virtue of its setting, your adventures in Estoria are marked by the presence of beautiful, well realized worlds that show off the artistic strengths of the game’s art team. The watercolor-styled set pieces in the game are visually arresting and a sight to behold.
With its relatable character, gorgeous art style, and a story written by Rhianna Pratchett, Lost Words: Beyond the Page looks and feels like an emotional adventure all of us can relate to.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.