“At the end of everything, hold onto anything.”
Developed by Infinite Fall, Night in the Woods is an adventure story game that almost plays out like a visual novel, it is a coming of age story that almost anyone can relate to. For some players, Night in the Woods is one of those games that you think about long after you’ve finished the game and reflect on the story and the choices you made. For a game I completed back in 2017 it is still to this day a game that I constantly go back to for whatever reason whether it be the story, the music or the nostalgia I feel when playing the game.
In Night in the Woods, you play as Mae, a young college drop out who just returned to her home town of Possum Springs, after 2 years. She returns home and for the entirety of the game, she lives in her parents’ attic. Mae meets up with her old friends, including a gothic and intelligent alligator Beatrice “Bea” Santello, an overly energetic knife-wielding fox named Gregg and Gregg’s quiet boyfriend a bear named Angus. Mae spends several days re-exploring her old home town of Possum Springs and she spends most of her time with her friends, but she also begins to have some strange and very vivid dreams as the events in the gameplay out.
Night in the Woods is one of those games where I almost want to call it a movie or even a story. There isn’t really much gameplay involved in Night in the Woods aside from some clever cute mini-games and mindless puzzles sprinkled here and there throughout the game. The characters are so well brought to life by their true to life events and dialogue I couldn’t help but relate to almost each and every character I interacted with, especially Mae. Each day you run around the town discovering new events and interactions with the townsfolk whether it be listening to a new poem from your neighbor Selmers, who is a moody bear, or gazing at Dusk Stars with your old teacher, Mr. Chazokov. Either way, each day offers the players something new.
There are several side storylines and characters that the player can miss out on as well if they do not explore the full town each day. Storylines such as helping Pastor Karen up at the church fight to help the homeless traveler Bruce find a place to live. Experiencing these storylines really makes the world feel alive and makes it seem that other events are taking place aside from Mae’s perspective during the game. There are two secondary characters that Mae can hang out with as well, Like Gregg and Bea. These characters are Lori Meyers and Jeremy Warton aka Germ Warfare.
Lori is a 14-year old mouse who is obsessed with horror, horror movies and all things scary. Not only has she seen a great deal of horror movies, Lori wishes to go to horror movie school and eventually write and direct a horror film in the future. Hanging out with Lori, the player hikes up to the train tracks and talks about events going on in the town as they lie between the two tracks as trains pass over them. They bring a small metal action figure to squish together and if the player hangs out with Lori twice they squish another action figure together to the first. If the player chooses to hang out with Lori a second time, you will learn a lot more about Lori’s personal interests and life. Germ is a very strange 18-year-old bird. It’s hard to talk about Germ because of his strange interactions, but if the players choose to hang out with him enough they will meet the rest of his family, including his Grandmother. While speaking with Germ’s Grandmother, it is clear that she is definitely a strange character who knows a lot about what Mae is going through at the time.
At the end of each day, the player is given a choice to hang out with one of two friends, you can choose to commit crimes with Gregg or spend time with Bea and go to the mall. This is when a lot of the bigger–and stranger–events take place. Sometimes things are lighthearted, like sneaking into an abandoned grocery store just for the fun of it, but there are also serious talks about past mistakes or what exactly Mae is doing with her life. Later in the game, depending on who you spend more time hanging out with, you unlock a special hang out. With Gregg, you join up with Angus who borrowed Bea’s car for the night so the gang can get their snack on at the ol’ Donut Wolf. Whereas if you hang out with Bea more, you tag along with her to a college party outside of town. During these events, you learn a lot about your friends and the struggles they have been or are going through and they are both really touching and emotional scenes.
As highly as I speak of the game’s story, I do have some minor gripes here and there. For me personally, I felt like the story really took a long time to build up speed, and maybe that was Infinite Fall’s plan to make the story drag until later in the game. Make the player experience how life is sometimes before major events hit the fan. Some conversations and events seem a little too forced and sometimes out of place, but again I almost suspect the developers made these decisions on purpose considering how strange Night in the Woods is as a whole. I was disappointed when I experienced frame drops as well, they were few and far between but for a game this simplistic graphically, I don’t expect to experience frame drops. I first experienced this game on my computer then once again on the Nintendo Switch, and for both, I experienced similar frame drops in generally the same locations, Mae’s Nightmares.
Night in the Woods has a beautifully created soundtrack by Alec Holowka that runs just under 3 and a half hours with 124 tracks, not including those from Band Practice, Lost Constellations and the Night in the Woods Preview. The music really gave me the warm fuzzy feelings when playing this game, from the warm and inviting Town music to the melancholy music of those Rainy days in-game. Each track fully fits each event of the game and really helps immerse the players into the game’s rich story. If you play Night in the Woods for one thing alone, I would strongly suggest it be for the music. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to the albums.
As you can imagine in a simplistic game like Night in the woods, the controlling is fairly bland and simple. There are some issues, however, from finicky jumping mechanics to minor bugs during key puzzle events. Though these issues are not very frequent in the game, it is still something that was blatantly there during some of the more important events.
I could talk about Night in the Woods for hours, but I rather not write an entire novel. There are so many things to experience in this game, from the mysterious Janitor to the annoying goth teens to the dungeon crawler mini-game Demon Tower. Night in the Woods honestly has something for everyone, whether it be the nostalgia you feel when connecting to one of the characters or the rich story and events that take place during the game or just simply the music. Sure the game has its issues here and there, but they are so small and insignificant that it really doesn’t impact the gameplay in any significant way. So open your Nightmare Eyes, take a ride on the Donut Wolf Charriot through this wild story.