Night in the Woods
Reviewed by Gary Gray
Night In The Woods is a story driven side-scroller with some light platforming elements. Set in Possom Springs, a slowly dying town built on a history of mining, you play as Mae; a light-hearted young adult, unsure of who she is and who she wants to be.
Mae returns home, after dropping out of college, to find that her small, sleepy town has changed since she left, for better and for worse. Reunited with her old school friends, she finds comfort in those familiar faces but quickly learns that while she hasn’t changed, all of her friends have grown up and found jobs.
Having A Laugh
The biggest strength of Night In The Woods is its character development, with each individual critter possessing a truly unique personality. There's a wide variety of humour amongst the characters, with some being light-hearted, and others such as Mae's best friend Greg, who bring out a dark and twisted sense of humour that can be truly side-splitting at times. It’s not all a barrel of laughs however, as Mae is riddled with past problems that slowly start showing their colours over time, as well as a magnitude of personal demons that also get brought to light.
Possom Springs itself is an interesting place, from the old abandoned mines, churches, and diners, to the newer build shops and supermarkets. Riddled with life, you can talk to most of the folk who roam around, and you're often rewarded with humorous and worthwhile dialogue, even if it doesn’t pertain to the main story.
Exploring the sleepy little town is a real highlight, as every day there's something different to discover, or a unique conversation to be had. Each day in the game follows the same sequence with Mae getting out of bed, running out to tackle the day's task, then returning to the house to go back to bed. The constant (albeit short) loading screens and the cutscenes which sandwich the day cycle start to become a little too familiar however.
The Devil's In The Detail
The truly fantastic art style is full of charm, and can trick the mind into thinking your playing a cartoon rather than a game. Every little detail is crafted beautifully, and perfectly placed. Night In The Woods is all about the detail, from the autumn leaves flying around your feet, to squirrels running over telephone lines and even old cats on mobility scooters, everything brings this simply designed 2D town to life.
There’s no “baddies” or any real threats to contend with, everything is centered around the narrative. Strange things start happening around Possom Springs, and Mae finds herself eager to dive into them, dragging her friends along for the ride. This creates a tension that you wouldn’t expect from glancing at the visuals, with an increasingly dark undertone that rises to the surface.
Multiple dialogue choices let the player interact with the text heavy story, giving you the choice of making Mae a straight shooter or the most sarcastic cat there is. There's also a series of short interactive scenes and mini games, from an 8 bit dungeon crawler that Mae can play on her computer, to a rhythm based music game when Mae plays bass in her band. While these don’t necessarily add to the story, they do help with the pacing of the game as a whole.
Be prepared for a plethora of adult themes and real life moments thoughout, as not only will you be committing minor crimes, such as shoplifting and trespassing, but also skimming real life issues of abduction and murder. Night In The Woods is definitely the most “real” I’ve felt a game be in a long time, even if it does star anthropomorphic animals.
Night In The Woods is an artistic masterpiece, and one of the greatest interactive book experiences you’ll have. Despite the lack of gameplay elements, the characters, setting and narrative are enough to make it worth your time, especially if you're into adult humour and powerful themes. With a truly genius and thought-provoking story throughout, it's an absolute pleasure to play, though does get a little tedious in stretches when characters stray from the main plotline. It takes a refreshing look at the real world through surreal presentation, and is a must play for anyone who values a captivating story.
Pros & Cons
+ Diverse characters
+ Charming art style
+ Remarkable story
- Tedious departures from the main plotline
- Slow pace at times