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Season: A Letter to the Future review - a thoughtful premise with some minor snags

Under the weather.

An intimite, mindful story of journalling what matters hits a few small bumps in the road.

Do you keep a journal? I used to. Initially, I tipped all my kid-shaped thoughts into a book with citrus-scented pages, and then my teenage dreams and devastations fell into a navy diary with golden trim and a flimsy lock. Several years later, I moved on to blogging and learned, very much the hard way, not to blast every waking thought and irritation onto the internet.

My journal was a confidante. Sometimes, a therapist. But with every other tangent and run-on sentence - some things never change, I guess - it's hard to imagine them being interesting to anyone in years to come. It was not, and never will be, an anthropological artefact to house the sights, sounds, and souls of a dying civilisation.

That's what Estelle set out to create, though. Unsettled by a portentous dream, her people prepare for the changing season, a poetic phrase that marks the end of the world; well, the end of the world as these people know it, anyway. But even though the fine folk of Caro are nestled high up in the clouds and safe from the turmoil below, Estelle wants to do more than sit and accept the season's end this time. Instead, she wants to archive the current season to inform and educate those in the seasons yet to come.

Here's a story trailer for Season: A Letter to the Future to give you an idea.Watch on YouTube

And so begins Season: a Letter to the Future, a gentle, melancholic adventure that sees Estelle leave Caro and explore the world beneath it, overwhelming her senses with sights, sounds, and sensations she's never felt before. Armed with a polaroid camera, Estelle snaps anything she finds noteworthy - you're the judge of what is and isn't interesting - and pops it into her journal. The same goes for sound clips; with a mic and recorder, she can tape intriguing soundscapes and magically embed those in her notes. She's also a skilled artist, too, able to sketch monochrome facsimiles of the many stunning vistas she encounters.

Without knowing what, exactly, happens at a season's end, it's up to you to decide what may interest the scientists that happen upon your journal in centuries to come. Will there be birds when the world ends? I don't know; maybe we should include a snippet of birdsong, just in case? And what about rain? The sweet sound of chittering monkeys? The gentle hum of the wind-swept bamboo and these enchanting wind chimes? You won't be able to archive it all - though there'll be "special" pages for certain events and discoveries, you'll mostly have a single double spread to record all your keepsakes and nothing more. That means it's up to you to play curator, too.

Season review - the main character stares outwards at a large rock formation
Season review - the pages of your journal

Maybe it's because of the orange-scented pages of my youth, but the journaling feature enchanted me, particularly when you unlock additional statements and stickers to adorn your journal with. I adored assessing my collection, carefully adding and discarding my selections for what, exactly, I think would be most important to retain. I'm not a big fan of shoehorning in multiplayer features for the hell of it, but would be so wonderful to sneak a peek at other players' journals at some point; even though we may share some snapshots and scribbles, I imagine every page will be arranged a little differently, uniquely personalised to the individual who curated it.

As a surprisingly linear adventure, it's difficult to talk much about Estelle's journey without giving something important away, and as her story is essentially as long or as brief as you want it to be - you can belt through it and be done within a few hours, or savour each new environment and scour every inch of it for days - I imagine there may be some people or places you could miss entirely and complete the game never knowing that they existed. Even playing sedately (I clocked up ten hours), I appear to have skipped a handful of key keepsakes. That's not for lack of trying; Season's lush world is stuffed with secrets, both good and bad, and I was unable to resist the call to uncover them all, trying to puzzle together the people's curious spirituality and strange singing flora as I did so.

Season review - the character walking through a lush field of bright pink-purple plants
Season review - the character, silhouetted, looks outwards at a starry night sky
Season review - the character sits on a bench overlooking a calm bay towards the horizon
Season review - the main character lies on their back looking upwards

You'll sail through the alien landscapes on your bicycle, the wind whipping around your ears as you soak up the world. The cycling mechanic rarely felt fluid, though; even with adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, cycling can feel cumbersome, and Estelle only has to graze a pebble to stop the bike in its tracks entirely, making transversal a bumpy, frustrating affair - particularly if you're in a rush.

I also experienced a little trouble with assets, too, as for the latter half of the game, Estelle's sketches were blocky and blurred, as if they hadn't loaded in properly. The same goes for the map, both the in-world ones and the sketched copy; by the time I was halfway through the region, they were all unreadable.

Season review - talkng to an elderly lady with strangely wide hair
Season review - riding your bicycle down a pebbled path
Season review - instructions of recording sound, showing a PS5 controller silhouette and short instructions to the right of screen
Season review - two characters drink bowls of soup by a couldron in a dark cottage

I ended with as many questions as I had when I started, too, but I don't blame developer Scavengers for that. Estelle's world unravels with every person you meet and every new place you explore, and as the curator of your own adventure, you're ultimately in charge of what you take away from this experience. There'll be choices; some will feel inconsequential, and others anything but. It's a shame, then, that despite what seems to be multiple endings, there's no way to replay unless you're willing to purge your original save file and start completely from scratch. Something, after hours of painstaking journal management, I am not.

These are small irritations, though, in an otherwise delightful adventure, a journey not just of essential documenting and archiving, but of self-discovery, too. I enjoyed slowly getting to know Estelle and her new friends, even if so many questions still lingered by the time the credits rolled.

You'll learn not only about what's important to Estelle, the people of this season, and the people that have come before them, but also what's important to you in your season, too. Every day of being you has led you to this very place; every choice, every decision, every bereavement, every mistake. When all that's left is you, a journal, and a handful of random keepsakes, what memories would you fight to keep alive?

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