A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Though SEASON centers around a complex, mature narrative, it doesn't offer much in the way of modeling positive behaviors or role models. Instead, the game takes on the role of placing players into a series of situations and asking the player to decide what the game is trying to say.
Positive Role Models
There's a lot of ambiguity in SEASON, and this spreads throughout all of Estelle's interactions with others. She may be demonstrating courage and selflessness by choosing to leave home for a noble mission, but the motives and worldviews of most of the other characters are murky.
With only a few characters in an expansive world, they do manage to represent a decent amount of diversity in age, race, body type, and gender presentation.
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Ease of Play
The game's controls are intuitive, and there's no way players can get "stuck" or have to restart a portion of the game. There are no obvious technical glitches, and a map is provided for players to help them navigate the Tieng Valley.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that SEASON: A Letter to the Future is a downloadable narrative adventure game available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Microsoft Windows. Much of the gameplay in SEASON involves taking pictures and audio recordings of what lies beyond Caro, the only place that Estelle, the game's protagonist, has ever seen. In the prologue, it's revealed that Estelle's friend has had a dream foreshadowing the end of the current "season." Though not explicitly said, this implies some form of an apocalypse where all humans and the world around them will cease to exist. Before this happens, Estelle wants to document what she can by using her scrapbook and audio recorder and deliver it to the Palace of Memory, the only place where memories of this season will survive into the next season. Though this title doesn't contain violence, language, or sexual content, it does ask difficult questions about death, war, memory, and identity, so it's probably most appropriate for teenagers who are mature enough to form their own opinions about what the story is trying to say.
Is It Any Good?
On the surface, this is a well-designed piece of interactive fiction. SEASON: A Letter to the Future has pretty environments, simple controls, and a pretty linear storyline. Players looking for a meditative adventure with compelling music and entertaining writing will find what they want from this game. But many may play through it and have an enjoyable time while completely missing what makes SEASON a unique and memorable experience. The key to what makes it work so well is its narrative ambiguity. Estelle has taken on the mission of documenting the world, not making judgments about it. SEASON manages to make that work not only within the story, but also to help define Estelle's relationship with the player. Estelle doesn't describe anyone as "good" or "evil," and she doesn't believe she has the authority to label anyone else's actions as right or wrong. As a result, there are many different interpretations of what players could decide is the answer to one or all of the game's questions about memory, identity, death, or war.
In some stories, this lack of clarity could be seen as careless or incomplete, but SEASON makes it feel intentional and rewarding by giving players the time and space to consider all of the options. Though Estelle is supposed to take only twelve hours to explore the Tieng Valley, the game doesn't actually have a time limit. That, mixed with the transitions between locations where Estelle rides her bike to the next documentable area, makes an effective space where players can mull over what they've just seen and heard. Overall, though it could take some guidance from an adult, SEASON may be a fantastic title for teens starting to form their own opinions about morality and politics. Because it gives players a chance to develop or exercise critical thinking skills, this game invites them into a safe space to make their own decisions about what's happening and what it all means. That's freeing and empowering not just for teenagers, but for adults too.
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