Night in the Woods is a true delight when it comes to story telling; this is no doubt due to the excellent pacing and consistently good writing. The game is probably best described as an interactive story, which, as the title suggest, can mean the game sometimes lack the element of gameplay. However, the inclusion of some pretty quirky mini games scattered throughout the mysterious story provide just enough to keep your hands from getting too bored.
Night in the Woods has you playing as Mae Borowski, a 20 year old cat who has dropped out of university and moved back in with her parents. Developer Infinite Fall have done a brilliant job in really capturing the sense of a young lost soul in Mae, who is stuck at a cross roads in life where her friends all seem to be growing up around her.
The first half of the game will mostly see you venturing into town, catching up with residents you haven’t seen in awhile and hanging out with your friends. It’s in these early stages of the game that the story really build it’s foundations, allowing you to re-ignite childhood friendships and really build a sense of caring for the different characters involved in Mae’s life.
One of the stand out elements to Night in the Woods is the variety of mini games your consistently introduced to; from day-time star gazing to playing baseball with light bulbs or trying to intentionally stab your friend in the hand, there’s even a Guitar Hero inspired band practice game. All of these mini games are often the result of interactions with your friends, which really helps the relationship building, adding to the depth of your engagement in the life of Mae Borowski.
At around the halfway point of the story the gameplay loop takes a new direction. After witnessing what can only describe as a ‘ghost-like kidnapping’ the game moves into a new mysterious, almost supernatural territory. This is where the meat of the story really starts to come through. Without going into spoiler territory, throughout the game there are some minor (one pretty major) reference to bizarre happenings around Possum Springs, it isn’t until the latter stages of the game that these bizarre happening start to get some answers. Getting the insight on various mysteries that are referenced throughout the game carries a pretty weighty emotional impact, mostly due to how well the game makes you care about the characters in the earlier stages.
Another stand out element to Night in the Woods is its presentation, theres no denying the game looks stunning. The art direction and animation really help capture the charm the story continuously oozes. Possum Springs always feels like a living town, where is residents include crocodiles, mice, cats, bears and I think a badger? Not all residents can be interacted with, but by just having random residents walking past you in the street makes Possum Springs feel alive.
For all it’s triumphs, Night in the Woods isn’t quite perfect. As mentioned at the beginning, the game often feels like an interactive story, which on the odd occasion felt a little boring – this really was only the odd occasion. Also previously mentions was how good the writing is, and with each speech bubble only being populated with short sentences it feels easy to read through, however, you are given the odd choice on how to reply to a comment, which only really effects your direct response, it doesn’t actually have any impact on how the story progresses or plays out.
Night in the Woods is a charming and mysterious ‘coming of age’ story. Although some parts of the game can suffer from not enough interaction, you never really feel like a spectator. With a stunning art design and animation, well-paced narrative and some brilliantly quirky mini games, Night in the Woods’ story is one you’ll be sure to remember for years to come.