I didn’t expect
Night in the Woods to hit me as hard as it did. What on the surface
seemed like a simple, charming and beautiful adventure game, turned
out to be an extremely emotional journey which resonated with me on
an almost too personal level.
In Night in the Woods, you’ll play as Mae, an anthropomorphic 20 year-old cat who is returning to her small hometown of Possum Springs after dropping out of college. Hoping to find solace in a familiar setting, she sets out to reconnect with her old life, seeking out the friends she grew up with.
For most of the
game, the reason for her dropping out is a mystery to you and
everyone she interacts with. The real reason for her return is
obscured by her laissez-faire attitude towards life. Mae, along with
all of her friends seem like incredibly shallow archetypes when you
first meet them. That coupled with the fact that the story is fairly
vague for the first few hours, doesn’t help their cause. But as
you progress you’ll begin to find that everything in Night in the
Woods has so much depth to it.
Mae, a lot in Possum Springs has changed. Economic stress is readily
apparent as she walks past the skeletons of former businesses on the
main road. There is a general gloom and depression that lingers over
the town that can be found not only in the locale, but in the people
themselves. As you interact with them more, your friends and family
will open up to you about their dreams, stresses and sacrifices. As
someone from a small town, I can’t express enough how real of a
scenario this all is.
There are some
extremely intense moments sprinkled throughout Night in the Woods.
As you scroll through your dialogue options, you’ll find that Mae
doesn’t really know how to deal with the general exasperation that
the people feel. A lot of her dialogue usually ends up having her
accidentally cross some boundaries or touch on sore subjects and
generally put her foot in her mouth. Because of this, not only does
she grow as a character, but so do her friends. By the end of the
game I found myself identifying with certain characters, and seeing
my friends in others.
That’s what I
loved about Night in the Woods so much. Despite having some of the
most beautiful art and sound design I’ve seen in a game (and
anthropomorphic animals), it manages to tell a genuinely real
story about small-town life which
I’m sure many people can relate to.
Without spoiling anything, I will say that some people may not be
super excited with where the story goes. There’s a whole
“murder-mystery, other-worldly” thing that happens halfway
through the game that may rub people the wrong the way, but
it’s done pretty well for what it is.
Night in the Woods isn’t a game without faults however. There are some story beats that never really payoff, and I’m not entirely convinced that a lot of my dialogue choices actually made a difference. But these are minor complaints in a game that sincerely could not stop thinking about until I finished it’s 10 hour campaign.
Night in the Woods works for me because I can relate to its version
of small town suburbia so well. Or maybe it has to do with the
stellar characters and the real issues they face.
Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s pretty as hell and has a
cool soundtrack and sweet Guitar Hero mini-game. Whatever it is, I
loved it, and I think it’s well worth your time.