I love games that tell a great story, with strong characters and weighty dialogue. I love a heart-wrenching narrative that makes me laugh, cry and then laugh a bit more. But there are certain games that can still push all my buttons just by the tone, gameplay, and sound, without using any words at all. Games like Four Sided Fantasy.
It’s so hard to define and describe what this game is without playing it yourself. But the moment you do start to play, it all makes perfect sense and feels like the most natural thing in the world. But what the hell is it?
Well, to begin, the game follows the adventures of a man and woman moving through a landscape that starts in the summer, moves to autumn, experiences winter and finishes in the glorious spring. That’s the entire story I’ve just laid out in front of you – the rest of which you can fill in using your imagination. Hosting a brilliant atmosphere and tone, by examining the details in the landscapes as you play through, the game does an amazing job of letting the subtext run wild.
The gameplay is the heart of Four Sided Fantasy though and the way it plays is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my long time as a gamer.
To begin with, you play as a man, and the landscape is much like that of a 2D platformer. You can move to the left, move to the right and jump – you know, your normal bog standard control system – but hold on to your hats, because this it where it gets weird. You can freeze the frame at any time, mid jump, mid fall, or simply just walking…. by the press of the right trigger. Then if you move off to the left of the frame, as the man sits frozen, the woman will appear on the right side of the frame. So if you walking along and there is a barrier in the way, press the freeze button walk off to the left and your other half will appear on the right and you can carry on your journey.
As you progress through the seasons, other puzzle anomalies are called into play. There is a section where the screen cuts in half with two different landscapes on each side, which you have to traverse between. There are other moments where the perspectives change; one of you is small and the other large. It’s a game that constantly challenges your brain, without ever being frustrating or perverse in its actions. I found that the true success of Four Sided Fantasy though is in making the complex constructs of the game very simple and enjoyable to play. The closest game I can relate it too is Inside, even though they are entirely different from each other, the originality and gameplay found in each have a lot in common.
There is about two to three hours of game here, or loads more if you get stuck on a certain section. When you work a puzzle out, you’ll experience a rush of blood and a great sense of achievement. The difficulty does move up and the puzzles do become mind bending, but it’s not such a steep curve and after playing for a while, you become attuned with the game, seeing everything suddenly all click into place. When you have completed the lot you can go back with the Game+ super hard mode, and discover some secret areas for more achievements…if you’re that way inclined of course.
Both the looks and tone of Four Sided Fantasy are very effective, pure and beautiful. The landscapes and artwork are stunning and very emotive. The world changing within the seasons is done superbly and the attention to detail is sublime. I really enjoyed the final section amid a lovely effective visual ending. It’s a game about visuals – not words – and it does this brilliantly. The soundtrack is amazing, and without any voiceover and limited sound effects, it has a big job to do. It does so though, with bold strokes and effective poignant moments that will stay with you well after the game has been completed.
Four Sided Fantasy is a brilliantly complex puzzle game. Now this might not be the game for everyone and a few will give up after the first hurdle, but that would be a shame because it has so much more to offer. The design, sound and concept are original and unique, whilst the price is perfect and makes it well worth a punt. The running time is decent, but it could have possibly been a bit longer because after a couple of hours, it’s pretty much over. I would however highly recommended this wonderful beauty of a game – just prepare to get your mind blown.