May 8, 2019 at 6:21 AM #1371
Night in the Woods
Rating: 5.0 – Flawless
You will never think of eels the same again after this game!
Oxenfree was my favorite game of 2016. I loved its art style, mysterious narrative and especially its script where the teenagers would one second be trying to solve this multi-layered mystery on an island and the next have a heart-to-heart chat about stereotypical teenage drama. Night in the Woods was receiving a lot of the same buzz over it also being a Narrative Exploration game with a relatable 2D art style and similar plot hooks to the point that among the gaming press it was generating buzz of being 2017’s top Narrative Exploration title. After looking into Night in the Woods I could not help but be reeled in by its plot where a failed college student drops out of college two years in and returns to her small podunk town of Possum Springs to try and recapture her days of chilling with her high school friends but only for them all to be later caught up in local town superstitions proving not to be so superstitious.
As attractive as the plot was I could not help but, I would not say be turned off, but rather mystified about the decision to go with humanoid-structured animals representing all the characters. First impressions watching initial gameplay of Night in the Woods made that choice in character style difficult to suspend my disbelief and maintain my focus on checking out the game. I am not saying that is a bad thing, I am simply stating that is what was perplexing my mind. There must have been others who felt similar to me because there was also a harsher vocal contingent who was upset with people avoiding the game due to the art style who wrote a few articles stating that if you were avoiding playing this because of animals as characters than to F off. That led to me not wanting to get caught up in all that hoopla so I decided it was best to avoid that controversy.
It was only around game of the year time at the end of 2017 where I heard friendlier supporters of the game rally behind it with high praise that convinced me to give it a chance and start it up at the beginning of 2018. I am relieved I did because Night in the Woods is a kickass Narrative Exploration game! The writing is right up there with Oxenfree as all the characters captured that local post-high school angst and rebellion of trying to make it in the real world and things not quite working out. I settled into a convenient routine of daily life gameplay where the player character Mae would check in with her parents and of course with me being me, make sure to talk to every local I would come across because they had something different to say every day! The dialogue for every major and minor character was so spot on that it made going out of my way to talk to everyone worthwhile and random spots in town had special one-time moments going in with periphery characters that if I did not check out I would have completely missed out on such as a poetry reading contest, breaking light bulbs behind a corner store and checking out the stars with your old teacher.
There are a lot of singular moments that really stuck with me in Night in the Woods. Every day in the game you are presented with the option of going out on a side-adventure with one of Mae’s two best friends Gregg or Bae. I chose to do all mine with Bae so if I do get around to playing through this again I will do Gregg’s side stories on my replay to have at least a little bit of new content playable in each day of gameplay. Bae has some priceless moments with Mae where the two have serious chats about their most personal feelings that few other games I have seen dared, and they also have some priceless lighthearted moments where the two get mischievous in a dilapidated mall, complete with a mini-game on trying to steal from a Hot Topic-esque store. The most hard-hitting moment that I vividly recall was when Mae’s mom has a bad day and does a 180 heel turn on her daughter! It hurt so much! Mommmmm!!!!
I was thinking once Night in the Woods was going to focus more on the supernatural mystery it would take away from Mae’s personal drama that was so irresistible to get caught up in. Thankfully, that was not the case as it was doubly entertaining to watch Mae’s crew come together and discover the truth behind the superstitions plaguing Possum Springs. As you can tell I got so into Night in the Woods‘ page-turning narrative that within about a half hour of starting the thought of the characters being animals did not cross my mind, and looking back on it the designs of the animals corresponded appropriately to the personalities they were representing. Minus the handful of over-ambitious dream sequences that were a little bit of a chore to get through and I might have given this a nod over Oxenfree. That split hair aside, Night in the Woods is a spectacular Narrative Exploration game and hangs in the upper elite tier of them with Oxenfree, Firewatch and Gone Home so if these games are up your alley make sure you do not make the same mistake I did and hold off on Night in the Woods for this long.
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