Game: Night in the Woods
Developer: Infinite Fall
Platform(s): Windows(reviewed), MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
Night in the Woods is an adventure game with an all too familiar Kick Starter story back in October of 2013 the game from Alec Holowka, and Scott Benson quickly met its goal, and after two smaller supplemental games many people, myself included have been eagerly awaiting its release. That day finally came early this week, and I have to say I’m pleased with the end result.
Night in the Woods is a narrative-heavy adventure game that follows Mae Borowski, a twenty-year-old anthropomorphic cat and recent college dropout returning to her hometown of Possum Springs. The base focus of gameplay revolves around exploring the town and interacting with its residents. You’ll have a lot of text to go through and not a whole lot of action to speak of. However, I think Night in the Woods beautiful art and the slight presence of 2D platforming elements help keep it from being lumped in with all of those “walking simulators” that I tend to shy away from.
In addition to Mae, the main cast is mostly composed of Mae’s parents, her aunt a local policewoman charmingly referred to as “Aunt Mallcop” and Mae’s three close friends. Bea, convince an emotionally distant alligator, Gregg, a fox and convenience store clerk with a tendency for less than legal activities and Gregg’s boyfriend Angus, a tech savvy Bear with a pretty neat hat.
As I’ve said above the gameplay of Night in the Woods isn’t terribly deep. Walk around and explore Possum Springs make discoveries and talk to folks, all of which Mae will chronicle in her notebook. The real beauty of Night in the Woods comes in both its art and storytelling. The beautiful character designs od Scott Benson pop on colorful backgrounds that bring a cute charm and frame a surprisingly dark narrative. In addition, the soundtrack handled by Alec Holowka himself is some phenomenal work.
What initially seems like the story of a college dropout coming to terms with a world that moved on without her turns into a story about murder and secret societies. While these grander themes are important, it’s how Night in the Woods handles relationships and heavy themes like mental illness and abuse that really stand out. They also add a certain depth of replayability.
This replay value come through the small choices Night in the Woods presents the player with. These options are on less of a grand scale than say a galaxy-altering decision you make in Mass Effect and boil down to more of who you hang out with more often. If you’re closer with Bea than Gregg, then you’ll see a more developed character arc from that person.
Night in the Woods is a cleverly written game that was clearly made by a team with a story to tell. While the gameplay is simple, it’s engaging in a way that is tough to describe, and the story paces itself in a way that keeps you all in through the roughly eight to ten-hour ride. It has room for replayability and cute charm all it’s own at twenty dollars it’s a steal that I gladly would’ve paid a full sixty for.
Score: 10 out of 10