Amazing storytelling in a world filled with characters trying to find themselves, Night in the Woods delivers quite a powerful performance!
I had followed the Kickstarter prior to playing this game. Knew how passionate the developers were about getting this game right. They took their time and enacted patience to finally come out with a game that they would be proud of. Oh, boy did that payoff! With a rich story and a setting that will leave you amazed till the end, Night in the Woods fulfilled every promise it made!
The story is about a young cat, Mae Borowski, as she ventures back to her hometown after being away for college, or what she could take of college. Players will become invested in a recent college drop out who seems to hide her true emotions by being a kid and really having no direction life other than to exist. In an attempt to not spoil anything, you venture through Possum Springs rekindling relationships with old friends, dealing with the stress of failure all while watching the town you grew up in fall apart. This really is the true heart of the game!
The dialogue is extremely well written to the point that even if you have no true connection to Mae, you still feel immersed into the story as it unfolds. The characters all have their quirks, but then again also have their own secrets they are trying to deal with as well. Character progression feels a bit weird at first as everyone is extremely hostile towards you, but as you progress deeper meanings behind their connections and angst is revealed allowing players to connect with other characters at the same pace Mae does.
Walking around Possum springs is extremely rewarding, as the worlds feel alive when they need to be and desolate when things are bit somber. The color choices, as well as the dream sequences, will stick through your head as they convey exactly what you are feeling at that moment. Another great touch is the fall setting! With all the leaves around and the environments getting ready for winter, you get to see critters running around forging their nuts and berries and really keeps the world alive. Character animations are fluid as well as the various mini games you play through the game.
Gameplay is a mixture of run, jump, talk or grab. Everything played extremely fluid as I never had an issue where I could not jump to a certain location and the environments were extremely friendly to explore. You can find secret houses as you walk on the phone lines, or explore areas of the world that was once limited due to construction. For those looking for a lot of action, you will not find it here as this game plays more like a visual novel.
Surprisingly, the mini games actually take center stage of being excellently introduced into the game! The band mini game was unexpected and super fun, even though you could not read the lyrics because you were focused on killing it on bass. Or when you are trying to look at items closer, your little cat paw comes on the screen where you spend more time picking up and dropping things to test how much of a grasp you have on this mechanic. They also included the video game on your laptop, Demon Tower, which was actually incredibly fun as well! Unfortunately, they are not used very often, but are super fun none the less!
The only problem I have with the game world is that it felt very repetitive. Exploring the same areas, asking the same characters the same questions just to progress story felt a bit tiresome at some points. I felt like I was on a schedule of:
- wake up
- check laptop
- chat it up
- chat with mom
- walk down the street
- chat with randoms
- chat with friends
- decide who to hang with
- hang out
- fuck up a relationship
- talk to dad
- dream sequence
It put me in a weird position where I knew exactly what the game was doing intentionally or not. This is the monotony of life, but at the same time, it created rifts in the story telling by not directly addressing the issues. If something would happen, it would be mended over chat. This can loose some gamers or people who just did not feel the connection at the beginning.
While venturing through some of the areas, you will notice just how phenomenal the music is. Sometimes I would just pause for a bit to listen to the music in each area. It was fitting no matter where you went, always drawing upon the mood or tone of the conversation and either playing a happy dance beat or a gloomy mysterious ambient song.
I have put this game into the “go back and play” list only because I want to see how some interactions vary by my choices. I also want to see what happens if I pay attention to more characters than others. Other than that, if you feel like you missed something there is no real reason to journey back into Possum Springs.
Overall, you get a whole lot for 8-9 hours of gameplay. As you progress deeper into the game, things do seem to get more confusing and in the end, you actually may feel a bit of awkwardness because it’s over. With all the pieces attempting to fall in place, you realize how much you have invested in Mae and the gang only to reach the point of no return. At the end of it all, you are rewarded with a game that takes chances but knows its flaws. It is not quite game of the year but gets pretty close.
A huge deal breaker for most is the $20 dollar price tag this game is sitting at. This comes down to how you want to spend your money! I would recommend you pick this game up, but maybe watch the trailer and try out these supplemental demos to see if this is the world for you. Download Longest Night Here and Lost Constellation here! If you are on the fence then wait for a sale other than that a great game to pick up!