Game Review – Night in the Woods

So this little game came out a couple months ago and I had no idea what it was about, but I started watching someone on YouTube play it because it had a cat in it and it looked cute and spooky at the same time (my favorite thing).  I didn’t watch very much before I was convinced I needed to play the game for myself.  So I bought the game and started playing and it’s pretty much been my current obsession since then.  Consider this my official recommendation to buy the game and play it for yourself.

With the way this game’s introduction is, you would assume it would be some sort of horror game about ghosts, and while ghosts are a prevalent theme in this game it doesn’t exactly turn out the way you’d expect it to from how it starts.  This game’s story is primarily a slice of life.  Spooky things do certainly happen, but the main focus of the game is exploring the town and hanging out with friends.

The story, without giving away too much, is that you play as Mae Borowski, who has just dropped out of college after being there only two years.  She refuses to talk about why she left college with anyone, just saying it “didn’t work out”.  She wants to pick up with how her life was before she left college, but things have changed in the two years she was away.  All her old friends have jobs and are working toward goals in their lives, and while she does get to hang out with all of them pretty much every day, things aren’t so easy as they once were.  On top of that, there’s weird spooky things happening, but that gets into spoiler territory and it’s best if you discover it all on your own.

As I said this game is mainly about exploring the town.  You could conceivably just rush through everything and get on with the story, but if you do that without exploring around you are going to miss a lot.  My first playthrough I was trying my best to see everything there was to see, and I still missed a whole bunch of stuff.  If you want to see everything this game has to offer, my best advice would be to talk to everyone you can, look at everything you can, and go absolutely everywhere you can possibly go every single day.

This game has some minimal platforming which essentially just consists of running and jumping onto certain things.  Due to the 2D nature of the game’s art style, the jumping can be difficult at times because you have to jump to get onto certain platforms that are slightly in the background and it doesn’t always register so you have to be very precise with it.  It wasn’t too big of an issue, but it did trip me up a couple times in certain places and it was a bit frustrating.  There’s also a little band mini-game where you have to do a sort of rhythm game by pressing buttons at just the right time while playing a song and it is probably the hardest (mandatory) thing in the game.  Luckily you don’t have to be good at it to progress.  There’s also a little game within this game that you can play on Mae’s laptop called Demon Tower, which reminds me a lot of The Binding of Isaac.  It’s hard.  I have yet to beat it or even get all that far in it.

What makes this game so good?  The characters.  (Also the music, it’s amazing).  They all feel like real people with their own quirks, likes, dislikes, and their own personal histories and problems.  The game’s story is told entirely through dialogue and because people don’t just go off revealing information about themselves willy nilly, a lot of things have to be pieced together slowly over the course of the whole game (again, go everywhere, look at everything, talk to everyone).  This game also touches on some real world issues: money and job problems, questioning religion and whether or not there even is a god, issues with different sorts of mental illnesses, things like that.  It gets heavy and deep and way too real at times, but it does it in a very genuine way that makes it feel real as opposed to just talking about it because that’s the Thing To Do.

I’ll briefly talk about the ending of this game (without giving spoilers) just because I’ve seen a lot of people say they don’t like it.  Now I can see why people might have a problem with it, as a lot is set up at the end of the game and you have a lot of questions but not all that many are answered.  People find this ending anti-climactic and somewhat of a letdown.  Personally I think that was the point.  You don’t get all the answers in life, but you just keep going on anyway.  You don’t always get a happy ending, but you try to live as normally as you can.  Keep on keeping on.  So I think the ending is good for what this game was. (And again, a lot of questions can probably be answered if you just explore more as well. If you breeze through the game without looking around, things will be significantly more confusing, I guarantee).

I think this game resonates so deeply with me because the town feels a lot like my town, being in the midwest with trains and farms all around.  I relate a lot to Mae in different ways.  The characters are charming, though I wouldn’t necessarily call any of them good people – they can all be horrible jerks at one point or another, but that’s how most people are, right?  It’s just a really good, solid game and I love it.  But hey, I love slice of life stories in general, and this one stole my heart.

Why don’t you go spend a night in the woods and experience it for yourself?

–Also I played the two supplemental games, Lost Constellation and Longest Night and they were definitely worth playing.  I feel like they were better experienced after the main game myself, though they were released before the main game was.  If you want a small taste of what this game is like you can get them for free.  No spoilers for the main game in either of them.

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