GAME REVIEW: Night in the Woods

Initial Release Date: 01/10/2017

Developer: Infinite Fall Publisher: Finji

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC/Mac, Linux, iOS

In a sincere attempt to explore as many indie games that I’ve missed in the last decade, I’ve hit my backlog hard this summer. Last month, I finally completed Night in the Woods. This quirky title features witty dialogue while diving deep into mental illness–something the gaming industry is still treading cautiously into.

Night in the Woods is a single-player “action” game, although I would say it leans heavily on narrative over gameplay action. You play as Mae, a humanoid cat, who dropped out of college and returns home to live with her parents in Possum Springs. You immediately are immersed in what Mae feels–so much has changed, and not in the best way.

Possum Springs is falling apart. The residents feel like they are living the same, almost meaningless life day after day as the world seems to move on without them. Stores are closing and…body parts are being discovered on the streets?

The game is divided into days, each of which Mae explores the town, chatting with neighbors and meeting up with her friends–Bea, Gregg, and Gregg’s boyfriend, Angus. Delightful mini-games are available, such as a homage to Rock Band, committing “crimes” in an abandoned supermarket, and tagging along with Bea as she performs a repair at a resident’s home.

As days pass, Mae experience vivid dreams that you play through–perhaps a representation of her mental deterioration. Things continue to get a little weird with the possibility of ghosts and blood-thirsty cults. Are they real? Are they metaphorical? If Night in the Wood’s premise intrigues you thus far, I recommend you give it a play-through to find out!

This begs the question: is it worth a playthrough?

My answer generally is, “It depends”.

In this case, it really depends. Where Night in the Woods shines is dialogue, music, and art style. Mae’s sassiness exceeds way past 100, and her BFF Gregg is hands down my favorite character. Although I cannot relate to Mae completely, she still emanates this struggle most humans go through one way or another. This game bravely explores mental illness, the struggles of a small town, and also is inclusive of the LGBTQ community without pandering.

What I struggled with most are its slow pacing (how I wished for a spring option) and overall ambiguity. Admittedly, I was often lost, and always hoping I was going to discover the secret behind that amputated arm sooner than later. Therefore, if you are looking for a fast-paced, gameplay-heavy title, this may not be the one for you. I personally like a game that is a little more focused as well; however, I certainly don’t regret the hours I put in.

Overall, Night in the Woods, tackles serious issues while making it bright, vivid, and enjoyable for those that want a relaxed evening of gaming. Not only that, but it’s available on almost every platform is often goes on sale!

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