We’ve seen a mini-revival of 3D platformers these last few years, bringing with it a mix of good and mediocre experiences, such as the acclaimed A Hat In Time and the somewhat mixed Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Making their own attempt at a platforming game, Belgian developers Exiin are now releasing Ary and the Secret of Seasons.
Due to launch on September 1, this new action-adventure title takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda franchise, and while it doesn’t quite hit those lofty heights so far, there’s a lot of promise in what we’ve seen.
So what’s the story here?
You play as Aryelle, daughter of the Winter Guardian that resides within Yule City, one of four Guardians of Seasons chosen to defend this world from an ancient evil mage’s magic by commanding the powers of spring, summer, and fall. Ary’s brother Flynn has recently gone missing, and as a result, her anguished father is in no state to carry out his duties as Guardian.
After fending off a hyena attack, Yule gets attacked by crystals that stop the elements, and a Guardian Council is called to discuss this new threat across the world of Valdi. With no one else to do it, Ary sets out to take her father’s place, armed with a sword and his winter crystal, the source of his power over the winter elements.
For this preview, Exiin included two parts. Part one is the game’s opening, the same demo released for Steam’s summer game festival. However, part two is new, showcasing the Winter Temple as you take on the Winter Golem, and it gives a broader view of Ary’s full set of powers.
The 3D graphics aren’t the sharpest here, but Ary’s colorful visual approach brings a lot of life to this world across both segments, filling it with personality and a lot of charm.
Taking place within Yule and the surrounding areas, this preview made for a great introduction to Ary’s open-world gameplay. Utilizing her new-found power, Ary can bend seasons to her will, which is crucial to both advancing in Ary’s adventure and solving the game’s puzzles.
Unable to cross a broken bridge? No problem; the winter crystal can freeze the gaps between it. Ice wall blocking your way afterward? No problem; you can deactivate your power so it melts. Need to clear some water? No problem; the spring crystal can help you separate it.
These different uses make for a creative experience, and once you’ve obtained further crystals for fall and summer, switching between these seasons is easily done via the D-Pad.
As you might expect from a Zelda-styled game, combat features in your travels, too — and you need to be prepared. Some areas are filled with hyenas, hogs, and raccoons, to name a few. You’ll need to employ defensive strategies to keep Ary alive, parrying and rolling to dodge attacks while locking on to enemies to deal damage. If you get hurt, health is replenishable via fruit from trees or pots.
It’s easy to learn but slightly tedious in its simplicity. Not every fight has to happen, though, as you can choose your battles by simply running away if you’re not after a quarrel.
Ary doesn’t exactly have a bustling open-world, but it never feels quiet either. Alongside monuments that detail Valdi’s history, you’ll encounter plenty of locals to chat with, and some will offer you side quests. These quests are all highlighted on your mini-map so that you won’t get lost in or between them.
As such, exploration is encouraged, and traversing Valdi never feels dull; there’s a lot of fun to be had uncovering its secrets.
You can also buy many items that will help you in your journey, including outfits, which allow you to both customize Ary’s appearance and upgrade some of her abilities. The Wing Boots, for example, allow Ary to double jump. Other upgrades, which you can purchase from merchants called sensei, let you enhance attributes like attack damage. These are purchased with coins found in secret chests or gained through side quests.
With only a month to go before launch, Ary And The Secret of Seasons is coming together nicely. In a couple of instances, the framerate dropped during sprinting, but otherwise, it proved a smooth experience.
Backed by a lovely visual aesthetic and charming personality, Ary is a game that platforming fans won’t want to miss and wears its influences from Zelda well. Personally, I cannot wait to see Exiin’s finished release. Stay tuned for more coverage in the coming weeks.