(Originally posted to Dreambubble on February 25, 2017)
I honestly don’t know where to start with this one. Night in the Woods sneaked up on me out of nowhere after I watched a Gameinformer video on it. I did see some artwork floating around on twitter but it was something I looked over because it seemed like “just another indie game”. Don’t be mistaken, this game will DESTROY your heart strings with it’s charming characters in an tense setting. Let’s hop straight into it!
Also don’t worry, this’ll be spoiler free minus story basics.
You play as Mae, the cat protagonist who drops out of college sophomore year and returns to her hometown of Possum Springs. She moves back in with her parents and struggles with the transition into adulthood. She reunites with old friends and explores this once great town. Throw a paranormal element in there and BOOM, you got yourself a story. As soon as I heard the plot, this game was an insta-buy because I’m going to college later this year and could always use more perspectives on the subject. I’m usually not a big fan of the point-and-click narrative exploration genera but I’m always up for new experiences.
The most important thing to mention is that NITW is heavily dialogue based. While you will be solving occasional puzzles and minigames the real meat of the game is found in it’s characters, similar to Undertale. It starts off as a typical reunion where Mae meets old friends like Gregg, Mae, and Angus to get the literal band back together. However, as the story unfolds the game hits you with the harsh reality that these friends have changed and most people remember Mae’s darker history with the town. Every character has their problems with life and Mae is often challenged by them, which gets you questioning her own life motives. It hits close to home and I couldn’t stop playing. This connected with me so well because I can mirror every character to my friends in real life which makes this game like a view into the future. The dialogue is so genuine and you can tell the writers have had some experience with these issues. The ups are high, the downs go low, and they balance each other out perfectly.
The main attraction is the story and characters but the art style, music, and sound design also transports you to this world. The is like an animated children’s book with plump characters and bright colors. Like most narrative adventure games there’s a lot of running around, but the attention to detail keeps every corner interesting. Sure, you could walk down the street like a normal adult, but why do that when you could balance on mailboxes, knock over trash cans, or bound across the power lines?! The intractable environment makes the small town on screen feel alive. Even smaller details like kicking up fall leaves and engravings on a forest tree conveys that people live in this town and it’s been here for a long time. A lot of gamers think to make a world realistic you need cutting-edge graphics and high poly counts, but this game does all that and more with a beautiful 2D plane.
Additionally this game made me appreciate sound design a lot more. There’s this one cliff in the game where as you walk closer to the edge, the music fades out so all you hear is the smooth breeze and humming traffic downtown. The camera never pans around and reveals a pre-rendered vista, but instead paints the picture in your head using sound and ambiance. They also use this to build suspense as you approach a dark corner or spooky figure. It’s beautiful and I’ll now search for this kinda stuff in other games.
As for gameplay, it’s really simple but compliments the story perfectly. Like mentioned before, there’s a lot of running around with the occasional minigame. You’ll be shoplifting, replying in conversations, and playing bass in a Guitar-Hero-like rhythm game. Its nothing special but still adds nice variety while you unfold the story.
This is honestly one of the best games I’ve ever played. It’s funny, scary, and heart-breaking all at the same time. I found myself conflicted multiple times about which friend to ‘hang out’ with because I cared deeply for all of them. I really see no reason for anyone NOT to play this unless you hate reading or videogames. My first playthrough lasted 9 hours and there’s still a ton of stuff I missed. Do yourself a favor, instead of using that extra $20 to buy a box of soda or an action movie ticket, give this game a shot. It’s worth your time and, if you’re like me, you may learn a thing or two about adulthood.
If you’ve played Night in the Woods, how was your experience? I could talk hours about this game so post your thoughts below!
Oh, and always remember, Gregg rulz ok.