Four Sided Fantasy represents an interesting homage to games such as Braid and Portal while still managing to claim its own very unique identity. Ludo Land created a fun game that will test your creativity in problem solving by providing a mix of straight forward to asymmetrical puzzles that test your imagination. My playthrough lasted right around 2 hours 15 minutes. This is a clever platforming puzzler using an interesting freeze frame dynamic that allows you to move through the sides, top, and bottom of the page in order to overcome challenges in many unique ways.
Story is not really a central aspect to Four Sided Fantasy, while there is a basic tale of a man and woman trying to connect in the world. Overall the story isn’t a quantifiable thing necessarily. However, there is an emotional exploration of timelessness and eternity that I found to be quite interesting. That subtext to the game is completely subjective, but also quite compelling. The use of the four seasons as a conveyance for this approach was well reasoned in my opinion. Complexity is achieved through subtle manipulation of emotions via the visual experience tied to the change of seasons. Through our struggles and triumphs, we are still to an extent beholden to the circle of time.
With regards to creating an emotional and philosophical tie to the game through deep and subtle context; I thought Four Sided Fantasy truly shined and I give this a 9.5 out of 10.
The gameplay in Four Sided Fantasy, as noted in my intro revolves around the freeze frame mechanic in the game. You will use this to solve all the puzzles throughout. The real trick is to use it as little as necessary though. This is reflected in two of the in game achievements. This could provide a compelling reason for replaying.
The actual freezing of the screen allows you to then leave the screen through any of the four sides of the screen only to reappear in the exact diametrical spot on the other side. The caveat to this being that you cant leave one side and enter another side where it is blocked by an object (such as a cliff or body of earth for example). Strategic placement of your freeze will be necessary to solve most puzzles. You can change the elevation of a freeze frame by jumping or dropping off of things as well, and this will be equally important at times.
What this does is it either get you to the other side of an obstacle (most often) or allows you to climb using freeze frames like rungs of a ladder. Players can align two separate frames, switch between the man and woman, and synchronize duplicates of yourself or synchronize the efforts of the man and woman when they are on screen together. These circumstances change based on the season you are in. Each season carries specific types of challenges. Towards the end of the game they start to mix things up a bit by throwing a few different puzzle types at you. These puzzles come from the previous seasons as well as a particularly devious set of closing puzzles.
So, aside from that, all you really do is run and jump. However as I noted before this sometimes can impact a puzzle and timing your freezes at a certain point in a jump and such. Oh….and batteries. There are also a couple color puzzles which are basically yellow and blue zones that kill your freeze ability Players must find the similarly colored batteries/keys to turn off those areas so as to proceed further. There are also dead zones, which, if you come into contact with them your character will die and have to start over at the last checkpoint. The checkpoints are pretty generous though, so you wont have to replay huge chunks of game. I found all of this to work perfectly.
In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that there are some issues with the game as well in the bug department. The first thing I noted was that achievements weren’t dropping as I finished story sections. The only way I knew I was progressing was the white screen that transitions you between the seasons, and observing the seasons themselves. I did note that my computer was running a bit slow while playing this game as well. In the Winter level I died while trying to grab a yellow key. When I got back to the spot the key was supposed to be, it wasn’t there and would not re-spawn. So, I turned Four Sided Fantasy off for the night and came back to it the next day.
After restarting the game, I found the key to be where it should be and kept on moving forward. At this point, I noticed a definite slow down in my computer. To the point where the game kept freezing for a few seconds, screenshots weren’t working, and the other programs I had running were also not working properly. Things continued to degrade, at which point I was fairly certain that severe memory leak was the culprit. Just after finishing the game while the credits were rolling, my entire system crashed.
When I rebooted my computer, all my progress in Four Sided Fantasy had been wiped and not only were no achievements other than one I got just after beginning the game showing, but there was also no evidence of the screenshots I had attempted to take on day two. Fortunately, through the wonders of Steam cloud, my day one screenshots up to the missing key are still in existence.
Ultimately I thought the gameplay in Four Sided Fantasy was top notch. It was as perfect as it could possibly have been. The memory leak however was as bad as it possibly could have been. I do know from reading the Steam forums that the devs are on point with trying to correct things as they are reported. I personally left a bug report there for them as well which they have already responded positively to, so I wont judge this point too harshly. As things stand, with memory leak, I still give gameplay an 8 out of 10. If they fix the issues with memory leak however (and I am confident that they will), then I will revise my rating here to be a perfect 10 out of 10.
The graphics in Four Sided Fantasy were completely on point. They were soft toned and pleasing. I really felt like I was playing through a beautiful series of landscape paintings. There is a certain beauty to be attained in simplicity. Ludo Land did a fantastic job of creating a wonderful and fantastic land to journey through. I was quite impressed and think this category is worthy of a 9 out of 10.
Much like the graphics, the sound in Four Sided Fantasy was beautiful if subtle. Although never prominent, it did serve to illustrate the change in seasons and perspective quite nicely and was beautiful in its own right. Another 9 out of 10.
This style of game is NOT actually in my wheelhouse at all. I typically get frustrated with puzzlers, but what Four Sided Fantasy succeeded with was in making a completely accessible and fun puzzle game that kept you wanting to move forward. It was also the perfect length in my estimation and held my attention completely until the end. Were it not for the memory leak issue, I would give Four Sided Fantasy a 9.5 out of 10. As things stand presently even with the issues I reported, Four Sided Fantasy is still going to receive a 9 out of 10. So strong was the effort and so seamless the experience overall. From a gaming perspective, this is exactly the type of game I would hope for in the puzzle game genre. So much so that I wont even give a comedic side note to my review score here.