SEASON: A Letter to the Future
Apocalypse tale asks complex questions about memory, death.
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SEASON: A Letter to the Future
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
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What’s It About?
Players are introduced to Estelle, the protagonist of SEASON: A LETTER TO THE FUTURE at the end of a season. When it becomes clear that the world Estelle knows is about to end, she expresses that she wants to record pictures and sounds of what is left on earth before it's erased. So, with the permission of her mother and the village elder, she leaves the village of Caro, her home, for the very first time. She soon reaches the Tieng Valley. At the valley's entrance gate, she learns from a member of the morally ambiguous Grey Hands organization that the valley has been evacuated. The Grey Hands have promised to escort everyone in the valley to the new season safely, but Estelle wonders how that's possible when she has been told that the world is going to end. When he hears about her mission to document everything she can, The Grey Hands member invites Estelle to explore the abandoned valley and make a record of it. He warns her that she has about twelve hours to do so before the Grey Hands plan to break the levy surrounding the valley, which has supposedly been on the brink of breaking for a long time. With that, Estelle is left to ride her bike through the valley's expansive farmlands and forests to piece together the story of the Tieng Valley and the people who lived there.
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Caro, a walled-off city where no one enters and no one leaves. Caro was created by a man named Dr. Fumio to stop the spread of a disease called Memory Excess, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of living in Caro?
If you were given the job of recording something for future humans to see from your world, what would you want it to be?
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, Windows, PlayStation 4
- Pricing structure: Paid ($29.99)
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Scavengers Studio
- Release date: January 31, 2023
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptions
- Last updated: March 27, 2023
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