Four Sided Fantasy Review

By Lexley Ford,
Side-scrolling platformers have been around since the early 1980s and is one of those genres with which almost everyone has had some experience at some time in their lives. Once a staple of the gaming landscape, the move to 3D environments saw a decline in the number of side-scrolling platformers, but the genre has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to an increase in the number of indie developers. Four Sided Fantasy from Ludo Land is one such title, but can it recapture the glory of days gone by?

Four Sided Fantasy

Four Sided Fantasy is a simple side-scrolling platformer. Like many classic platformers, there is little to no plot — just a premise to give players a reason to progress. A man and woman are trying to find each other throughout the four seasons of the year but, unfortunately, they are constantly separated by the boundaries of the screen. That's all there is to it, but the end goal is simple no matter why you're doing it: you just need to navigate past numerous obstacles in order to reach the other side.

Unlike other games in the genre, Four Sided Fantasy gives players the ability to navigate past obstacles using the unique screen wrap mechanic. When you leave one side of the screen, you “wrap around” and emerge on the other side, fall through the bottom of the screen and reappear at the top, much like in the arcade classics Pac-Man or Asteroids. The difference with Four Sided Fantasy is that the player has the ability to freeze the screen, thereby toggling the screen wrap on and off at any time, by holding down either of the trigger buttons.

Four Sided Fantasy

It's this mechanic that player will use to work their way past the game's many puzzles. They start quite simply and you encounter some very straightforward obstacles, such as a large gap that is too wide to jump. By freezing the screen and wrapping around to the other side before unfreezing the game, the gap is easily passed and you are free to continue on your way once more. As the game progresses these puzzles require a little more time, quicker reactions and an ever increasing amount of abstract thinking, although simple trial and error will often suffice, too.

The game takes players through each of the four seasons with each new season bringing with it a new mechanic. Just when you think you understand exactly how the screen wrap mechanic works, a new way for you to look at the confines of your screen is introduced and a whole new way to solve the puzzles is needed. These extra mechanics aren't wholly too difficult to get to grips with either. In Autumn (or Fall), each time you wrap around the screen, the direction your characters falls is flipped. In Winter, screen wrapping switches between foreground and background, while Spring introduces a split screen that allows players to switch between two different locations.

Four Sided Fantasy

Each season is beautifully presented with a simple, almost hand drawn, art style. There is very little difference between each environment other than a change in the colour palette, although that is more than enough to differentiate them from each other. As you would expect, Summer is bright with shades of green and yellow, Autumn is more earthy featuring yellows and oranges with a scattering of falling leaves. Winter is the most striking in terms of graphical differences; the deep blues and brightly contrasting whites along with the falling snowflakes perfectly evoke memories of the cold months before the palette returns to the bright greens of Spring.

At times there is some noticeable screen tearing and the occasional drop in frame rate despite very little happening on screen, alhough this happens fairly infrequently and doesn't have a great impact on gameplay. At most times the game runs smoothly, transitions between the sides of the screen are instantaneous and the controls are fluid and highly responsive.

Four Sided Fantasy

Unfortunately, Four Sided Fantasy isn't very long, and can easily be completed in an hour or two. There is certainly a lot of potential, although it never feels like it has been fully realised. None of the puzzles are particularly taxing once you get to grips with the mechanics and not one ever took more than a couple of minutes to work out how to pass. Despite the relatively short length of the game, there is a New Game+ mode that is unlocked after finishing the game for the first time. This changes the screen wrap visuals and mixes up the gameplay just enough to get you scratching your head again. Like the main game, it doesn't take long to acclimatise to the gameplay and it only adds a little extra variety to the experience as a whole. It would have been nice for each of the seasons to have had a few extra puzzles or more stages — something to increase the overall longevity.

Four Sided Fantasy only has 11 achievements up for grabs, most of which are unlocked for passing each of the game's zones and for completing the New Game+ mode that is unlocked after finishing the game for the first time. There are a couple of more difficult achievements for those wanting to unlock the every single one. 234SidedFantasy, for example, tasks the player with completing the game with less than 234 screen wraps, while Freeze Frame requires players to complete the game without freezing the screen more than 169 times.

Summary

There are a few minor graphical issues, the experience is short and replayability is rather limited, but Four Sided Fantasy is a truly unique experience that’s easy to pick up and just as easy to enjoy. It might not be a title players can return to again and again, but it is a short and sweet puzzle platformer that shows that there is still plenty of life left in the genre.
8 / 10
Four Sided Fantasy
Positives
  • Unique gameplay experience
  • Beautiful art style
  • Easy to pick up
Negatives
  • Some minor graphical issues
  • Overall short experience
Ethics
The reviewer spent eight hours jumping, flipping, screen wrapping and scratching his head occasionally. Both the main game and new game+ modes were completed. 9 out of a possible 11 achievements were earned for 700 gamerscore. An Xbox One code for the game was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
Lexley Ford
Written by Lexley Ford
Lex has been gaming for nearly three decades and has been a Newshound for TrueAchievements since 2011. When he’s not writing news he can normally be found immersing himself in a good story, both written and in-game, or just blowing stuff up (only in games).