Night in the Woods: The Hometown Adventure with Furries
By Thomas Rex
At first glance, Night in the Woods is a charming indie adventure game with cute characters and a unique art style. What lies beneath the surface is a hilarious, heartwarming, and surprisingly serious experience. Night in the Woods is Infinite Fall’s first game, and I’m hoping they have more in store for the future because I’m craving more intelligent games like this.
In the game you play as Mae Burowski, a cat (literally a cat, everyone in the game is some kind of animal) too cool for college who drops out in her sophomore year and returns to Possum Springs, her quiet miniscule hometown. She’s not sure of what she wants to find in her return, but she craves to feel something familiar. Trouble ensues when Mae begins having weird dreams on top of friendship drama on top of a kidnapping ghost/phantom/cultist person ravaging the town.
The beginning throws you in without much instruction about controls, or how puzzles in the game are solved without a tutorial puzzle or any directions. There’s also no way to change the controls at all. As someone who likes to fiddle around with what keyboard keys do what, knowing I couldn’t change the controls was an immediate turn off for me.
Another negative was the frame rate. Okay yes, I was playing on a Mac which isn’t the almighty gaming computer of the century, but there were times when a puzzle that should have only taken me five minutes to complete took me fifteen because of how low the frame rate dropped. Good thing is that these slower scenes were only the dream sequences, but it was a shame because I wanted to enjoy those scenes because of how the colors and art changed. I’m also sad that the choices I made didn’t have a huge impact on the game itself, but I’m glad I got to see the choice-specific scenes that I saw even if there were only a few.
Negative critiques aside, I genuinely fell in love with the world of Night in the Woods. The entire world rang with nostalgia as you make Mae traverse through her hometown, seeing all the people she grew up around, and reunite her with her old friends. Speaking of friends, the cast of characters are phenomenally written. Gregg, Mae’s best friend from high school, and his boyfriend, Angus, are a very well written gay couple whose struggles and wants aren’t stereotypical or unrealistic. While Mae’s estranged childhood friend, Bea, provides an interesting take on rekindling an old friendship that died for all the wrong reasons. When I finished the game, I was genuinely sad I didn’t have more time to interact with these characters. I felt like I knew this rowdy bunch of animals in real life.
And then there’s the music. The soundtrack goes from soothing to eerie to somehow familiar. There is the game’s main soundtrack which is a lovely companion to the calm art style, and then the soundtrack of Mae and her friends’ band (presented in Guitar Hero-like sequences) which sounds exactly like Anamanaguchi meets a garage band, and finally the meta music of the game within the game: Demon Tower. A computer game that Angus installs on Mae’s computer, Demon Tower is in the style of Hyper Light Drifter where you play as an old cat warrior crawling through dungeons.
Night in the Woods takes a surprisingly mature twist as Mae realizes what an immature asshole she is and how she has to change herself to be a better person. A large portion of the game revolves around how Mae’s rebellious actions change the people around her, especially her friends and family. The game serves almost as a redemption arc for our young heroine as she realizes that everyone has grown up without her, and that it’s her time to move on too.
A nostalgic setting and gripping characters that will stay with you for a long time after you beat it, Night in the Woods is a game well worth playing. It has witty dialogue and an interesting enough mystery to keep players wanting to know the truth behind the small mining town of Possum Springs. I’ll give it an 8/10, its compelling characters and story outweighed its sometimes wonky mechanics by a long shot.