Tour de Canada
I wouldn’t have believed the young, Canadian team Scavengers Studio: After the not necessarily soulless, but playfully mediocre and stylistically interchangeable Battle Royal title Darwin Project, the team conjures up a really nice “wholesome” game out of a hat: Season is beneficial , quiet and contemplative, also a bit spiritual without drifting into the esoteric. We game journalists would probably have called the story “pseudo-philosophical” a few years ago, when almost every story beyond saving the world and zombie apocalypse was dismissed with this unflattering title.
Season is simply about people’s lives, their relationship to the world and nature, and what remains of their work, their aspirations, and themselves at the end. The whole thing is embedded in a sometimes dramatic, sometimes light-hearted narrative that doesn’t take place in our world, but could very well be: Season has delicate coming-of-age vibes and touches on aspects of the environment or politics – it’s about memories, for example of a war or the evacuation of a village because of an imminent dam blast – but family stories or philosophical thought games are also in focus. All of this takes place against the backdrop of an impending apocalypse, from which one does not know until the end whether it is threatening, healing or simply inevitable.
Cycle, talk & record
World, here I come to explore you!
Specifically, in the game we control a young woman of color who explores a large, almost deserted valley on her bike. It goes over gentle hills to a coastal road, elsewhere a cow pasture, strange temples in the forest or an abandoned gas station alternate. The main character leaves her parents’ house and her home town, takes a camera, audio recorder and a little book with her and wants to capture as many impressions of her world as possible for future generations – hence the subtitle “A letter to the future”. Which, by the way, is translated as “A letter to the future” in the German game menu, but remains “A letter to the future” in the German online stores.
The simple game mechanics are straightforward and well implemented: cycling, including pedaling with the shoulder buttons, feels just right on the PS5 pad, uphill it gets a bit tedious, downhill you can let it roll and enjoy the view. After a linear start, the game world opens after a good two hours. Equipped with a map, you explore the Tieng Valley by bike, dismount and chat, portray or ponder. My main character pulls out a no-frills camera at the push of a button (e.g. I would have liked to have had different image formats and brightness settings) and used it to record what she sees and experiences. Animals, people, buildings, hills, flowers, temples. Alternatively, you pull out a tape recorder, hold the microphone out into the landscape and record sounds: for example the rushing of a stream, the sound of a musical instrument, birdsong or the murmured stories streaming out of strange pink memory crystals.
Keep a virtual diary
Parallel to your trip, you create a diary – that’s surprisingly a lot of fun and also works mechanically very well.
If the game considers an image or sound recording relevant, you will be informed that you have now made something for your journal again. You can open the virtual booklet, leaf through it and fill it with content yourself. Every place and every little story in the game has its own double page, where you can attach snapped Polaroids, park sound files or enter short sayings and quotes from conversations and experiences. When a certain fill level per double page is reached, the main character says a few words about it and receives further pictures, graphics or ornaments to round off the chapter. You can scale images, texts, sketches, etc. and place them freely – this is how each player creates an individual travel diary. It can look really pretty and playful, it can be a bit messy, or it can be super organized with photos that are always the same size, right angles, and the accurate alignment along the edge of the page. As you like it.
Sometimes the game world seems quite banal, and then you encounter strange places full of magic and visual impact.
After the quite familiar, almost bourgeois start to the adventure, the game world and the many little stories completely fascinated me. On the one hand, cycling, pulling the camera, dismounting and walking around feel very grounded and down-to-earth. “It could also be me going on a bike tour in the Allgu,” I think to myself. And then there’s this absurd giant statue looming out of a shimmering pink meadow, I meet a weird, uniformed group called “Gray Hands” and meet quirky, over-the-top characters that could have come straight from the pen of Ghibli mastermind Hayao Miyazaki. Season: A letter to the future made me curious, surprised and almost shook my head during my eight hours until the end credits. And I really liked that.