Night in the Woods delivers on something truly exquisite, an experience that made me laugh, made me feel bad about myself, and caused me to think about sensitive aspects of life. This game mastered something so few games ever attempt to accomplish, with its ingenious writing and by showing the true power of dialogue.
I didn’t know what I was getting into with this game, how it would absorb my psyche and have me relating to a short black cat named Mae. Mae is the protagonist, the game starts with her arriving back home in Possum Springs after dropping out of college. In Possum Springs, Mae left her best friends Bea and Gregg, and Angus, who is Gregg’s boyfriend. Gregg is psyched about Mae being back, although Bea is reserved and drifts along in her relationship with her, holding some resentment towards Mae. The interesting thing about how Night in the Woods portrays its story is in a way that there is no overbearing arc. Mae runs around Possum Springs, a rural has-been and decaying former mining town, talking to the diverse characters who live in it, like Lori M., a fifteen year-old obsessed with death and old horror movies. Mae spends as much time as she can hanging out with her friends, such as royally sucking at playing bass in their dead-end band practices in a for sale abandoned party supply store. There’s nothing huge going on in Possum Springs, except for one event, but that’s something i’ll leave unspoiled. The story in Night in the Woods is something that is no different from real life, presenting something that is truly relatable with its town full of quirks and even quirkier characters.
Mae’s friends work and have way more responsibility than she could ever dream of, but they still find time to hang out. Gregg likes to run around the town committing petty crime, and in one scenario he’ll be throwing light tubes at Mae so she can hit them with a baseball bat in the town dump. Mae will do everyday things with Bea such as grocery-shopping for dinner and heading out to parties. And she’ll spend some time with Angus too, learning who he is and what his background was like, because they weren’t friends until she came back to Possum Springs. As the game progresses these characters don’t evolve, but their lives and aspirations start to make sense, who they are as characters can easily become relatable for the player, how they feel and respond to the daily crutches of life. It’s an interesting and fresh take to handling both the story and the gameplay in a video game, but in the 10 hours of play I never felt it was monotonous because I had invested myself into Possum Springs like the game so delicately wanted me to.
Night in the Woods is made up of running around the streets of Possum Springs, jumping up onto and walking across power lines to get onto roofs of buildings, sucking at bass in a cute rhythm game, Mae electrocuting herself by trying to take out a car battery and so on. The game tries its hand at doing many things in a 2D adventure landscape, and it never fails, which is baffling for a game that attempts to do so many different things involving its gameplay.
I didn’t encounter a single technical issue in my time with the game and Mae controls how she should and platforming isn’t overly complicated. This game possesses a level of polish missing in many modern games, which amazes me coming out of a small-time indie.
I also want to talk about Demontower, an awesome game within a game that sort of mirrors Hyper Light Drifter in a petite dungeon-crawler format. There isn’t much context, but the protagonist is a little white cat wearing a cape and a red hat and he goes around the different levels of the game killing enemies that ramp up in difficulty, finding a key on each level to open the boss room to progress. If the cat dies he just goes to the beginning of the stage, so there isn’t much progress to be lost. The good thing about Demontower is that it actually controls well, requiring precise movements like Dark Souls. The influence for the game is pretty clear, and the developers nailed it. The music, much like in the actual game itself, is pretty great here too, varying in style dependant on the stage.
The art in this game is nicely detailed, each character has a unique personification, even the minor characters dotted around Possum Springs. Mae is a little chubby, has tears in her right ear, and self described “nightmare eyes”. Bea is often smoking a cigarette and sports dark eyeliner wearing all black. Gregg sports a leather jack, which makes him the coolest. And Angus, with his fedora, vest and tie combo. Every character is based off an animal. Mae is a cat, Bea is a alligator, Gregg is a fox, and Angus is a bear. All the environments are detailed, with leaves falling off trees as the game is set in the fall, squirrels running around collecting acorns for the impending winter. All of it has serenity that feels welcome given the setting and the theme of the game. You see desolate and abandoned factories in the distance, stores going out of business, and the game flows as time progresses and Possum Springs along with it. Thanks to the amazing art, Possum Springs is nostalgically recognisable as a town everyone used to call home.
This is where I get to what I really want to talk about, the soundtrack and the amazing sound design. The soundtrack is incredibly varied with tracks spanning from spooky and unsettling to a calm rhythm that may tickle your nostalgia bone. Many of the tracks are calming and serene, though hint at a hopelessness given the setting. Every track is fitting to any given scenario, from Mae running around Possum Springs jumping around on power lines to exploring an eerie cemetery searching for a ghost. How the music fades in out, adjusting to the environment, suddenly stopping for effect, it’s an amazing audio experience. Listening to Mae and Co practice playing songs while I’m sitting there trying to punch all the right notes so I can make the music perfect is a great feeling. You can hear the leaves rustling by as Mae walks past them, the power lines sound like the strumming of a guitar when jumped on. The soundtrack adds to experience by giving off a sense of familiarity and restlessness, giving off the vibe that something isn’t quite right.
Night in the Woods is a game that not only defied all my expectations, but changed how I feel about what makes a game a masterpiece. Night in the Woods played with my emotions in ways that I didn’t think possible from a video game, the writing is some of the best I’ve ever seen in this medium, the graphics have thoroughly raised the bar for 2D games with its insane amount of detail and vibrancy. And that soundtrack, oh that soundtrack, there’s not much else I need to say about it other than it’s amazing and it’s something I’d regularly listen to.
- Amazing Writing and Dialogue with a heartfelt and enchanting story to tell
- Beautiful and Vibrant 2D art
- Fantastic Soundtrack that oozes emotion and creativity
- Varied and relatable characters
This is a game that everyone should play regardless of preference, as it bodes an experience that anyone from a small town could rightfully relate to, and it’s an experience you won’t ever forget, nor would you want to.
Kyle Inman is a writer for The Game Bolt. His love of JRPGs has bolstered a life full of video games and a deep admiration for them. He plays a bit too much, but that just adds to his character. He also had a weird fascination with video game soundtracks. Behold his words of wisdom about games and geeky things on Twitter.