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.
Unfortunately for 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, along with the 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.
But all of that gloom and mundanity doesn’t preclude Night in The Woods from having some really exciting and tense moments. 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.
Maybe 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.