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An uphill fight, May 22, 2022
That's now how life works.
And so sets the mood for A Change in the Weather: dark, dreary, and unforgiving.
I tried this a couple of times in my youth and could not get into it. I think knowing going in that you could lock the game out victory near constantly kept me from immersing myself in the world. I just gave it another shot and I'm glad I did.
The atmosphere really is lovely. Despite the prose being fairly terse, Plotkin does an excellent job heightening the senses. Even the faintest change in the weather is felt and gives the player a sense of urgency I think is necessary for this game to work. And despite given no goal other than exploring, I was plenty motivated to solve each puzzle simply by the nature of rushing against the weather. The fox serves to amplify the setting while also giving the player an extrinsic motivation to keep going.
Losing to the weather and the frequent restarts and restores didn't negatively impact my experience at all. There are only six locations and a limited number of things to interact with, so it never felt like a chore to try things over again. The game's downfall, sadly, is that some of the puzzle solutions don't feel intuitive or logical. While mapping the hill is fairly simple, it's still difficult to get a sense of how exactly the landscape is formed. This ultimately kept me stuck for a long time in the second half. Specifically, (Spoiler - click to show)I never thought to use the boulder to slow down the torrent of water. For one, there is no indication that the boulder can be pushed in a direction, as the default way to push it is the wrong way for no apparent reason. Secondly, I just couldn't picture in my head where the boulder would land and somehow help me. On the other hand, using the sandbags was intuitive. Unfortunately, if you drop even one of the sandbags by the wildflowers (despite the fact that it works just as well there to slow down the torrent), this will prevent the fox from guiding you to where to dig to divert the water. Ultimately, while I was able to essentially reach the finale on my own, I was forced to succumb to a walkthrough to fix some of the details.
So I will offer an unusual recommendation. Play A Change in the Weather to experience the setting and have a walkthrough handy. But only use the walkthrough once the game has you exhausted. The struggle is what makes it beautiful. That's how life works.