Night in the Woods offers a very personal experience. It’s a game that tackles difficult situations and emotions that few others could hope to achieve. You may be misled at first by the cute cartoon animals on-screen, but as you begin to explore the small mid-western town, you will soon discover complex, interesting characters, stories, and themes – all these interactions feel very real and organic down to Infinite Fall’s brilliant and witty writing. My time in Possum Springs was filled with questions and emotions, and as I delved deeper, I was increasingly enthralled with whatever these little animals had to throw at me.
You follow the story of 20-year-old Mae Borowski who drops out of college and returns to her hometown. For few days, Mae’s time will be spent catching up with family, neighbours, people around the town, and her old childhood friends. The main story isn’t too clear as there are a few sub-stories that, given individual interpretations, could be deemed as part of the main quest: Piece by piece through conversations you start to learn about some dreadful act that Mae did in her past, whilst others talk about a kid that you knew from high school who has disappeared.
As I began to walk around Possum Springs and interacted with some of the characters, at times I felt like I was intruding on a personal conversation: the comments made by your neighbour who considers Mae an awful nuisance, or a boy’s silly poetry that I went back to listen to everyday. All these encounters feel genuine and real, and they allow Night in the Woods to approach serious issues in meaningful and insightful ways. Your early interactions are with your best friends, Gregg and Bea – Gregg is a wonderfully amusing and funny character, and Bea is far more serious and to the point. As you talk and spend time with each of them, you begin to unravel their flaws and problems and realise that there is far more to them than first meets the eye.
A large chunk of your time will be spent talking with people, and information will slowly be given to you depending on who you talk to and which conversation options you choose. Most days are ended with activities such as helping prepare dinner with one of your friends or “doing crimes” in an abandoned store with another. These may sound simple and uninteresting, but they do involve deep, personal talks and arguments, and they reveal Mae’s naivety about life and adulthood, which she seems to have not experienced whilst away at college. These talks can be awkward and uncomfortable due to their realism, and I even felt guilt from some of the things Mae said to offend her friends.
After these sometimes tough conversations, the game is nicely split up with a number of mini-games, such as a dungeon-crawler that you can play on Mae’s computer in her bedroom, going to band practice and playing the bass guitar, or some minor platforming in Mae’s dream sequences. Regardless, if you are doing one of the mini-games or exploring the game, Night in the Woods has an excellent soundtrack with a various range of music playing in perfect harmony with whatever activity you’re doing – from the upbeat, light-hearted music while exploring the town to the sad, melancholy sounds that play in your lonely and dark dreams.
The sadness from these dreams and the struggles Mae encounters in her day-to-day interactions give you a true sense of the issues she is going through. If you, like me, have ever had to deal with these problems yourself, this story will certainly hit home. Infinite Fall masterfully entwines a serious story with a believable return home for a deeply flawed character.
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac
Release Date: 1st February 2018 (Nintendo Switch), 13th December 2017 (Xbox One), 21st February 2017 (NA)/28th February 2017 (EU) (PC, PS4)