Coming of age stories often have huge appeal to us, as it is a period in our lives we all experience in one way or another. At some point we all have to leave school, take on more responsibilities and move on to real, adult life. It can be damn hard, as life often isn’t straight forward or simple. While Night in the Woods doesn’t necessarily aim to give you a solution (as there really isn’t one), it is one of the most relatable games I’ve ever played, and made me feel not so alone in my own journey.
Following the plight of Mae, a 20 year old cat (everyone is animals but they act like normal people, ok lets move on) who after two years of college, has dropped out for ‘reasons’ and returned home to her American country town life. However, after being away for two years a lot of has changed, including her town, her family and most definitely her friends. Much of the game you’ll be spending your time trying to rekindle your relationships with your old friends and home, as your slowly learn about the town and people which shaped Mae’s life and her somewhat mysterious past.
Although the charming and quirky artwork will draw you initially, it is Night in the Wood’s realistic setting, engaging story and often deep relationships with each character which will keep you around, for what is the better part, a brilliant and meaningful 12-hour point and click adventure game.
The main plot, although intriguing, often takes a back seat to the moment to moment, or day to day life of Mae in Possum Springs, her home town. Which is filled to the brim with a wide assortment of characters all with their own hopes and dreams, history, quirks and traits. And it is here where the game’s depth truly lies and hits home the hardest. Mae’s best friends from high school, Greg, Bae and Angus are still living in Possum Springs and for better and worst, are still your closest pals.
They all play an integral part in your story and are all a blast to hang with. Greg’s antics always brought a smile to my face, Angus is ridiculously sweet and Bae had me questioning my morals with her down to earth but endearing personality regularly.
Thankfully you have plenty of time to hang and learn about these engaging characters, or in Mae’s case reconnect with them after being apart for so long. From smashing up cars or stealing edgy clothes from a shopping mall, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them and some of your relationships may need some repairing along the way.
These are some of the realest moments in the game, or any game in my experience. Moments which had me sitting back in shock or awe, questioning Mae’s motivations and personality, as much as my own. It is safe to say I won’t be forgetting my adventures and D&Ms with Greg, Angus and Bae anytime soon.
Although relationships with the main cast are the backbone of the story and explore the main themes of the game most poignantly, some of my favourite moments were when I was building rapport with the various side characters around Possum Springs. Whether it was hanging with the kid who loves horror movies on the roofs of the town, listening to a girl’s poems slowly improve over time, or pissing off the guy who hates Mae being on his porch every day.
Talking to them wasn’t mandatory, they weren’t quest givers or objectives. They were just folk who were part of the community, and made Night in the woods feel all the more real. They weren’t one sided npcs. They were genuine characters, who had extensive dialogue which evolved over days and weeks. This depth is what makes Night in the Woods so special.
During your time in Possum Springs when you aren’t questioning your life with Bae or talking shop with town folk, you’ll be jumping, climbing and solving puzzles as you explore every aspect the town has to offer. Often hiding secrets which relate to Mae’s past or the events at hand, there is plenty of cool slithers of lore and interactions to be found if you’re are willing to search. Throughout your adventures the soundtrack sits nicely in the background, pushing you along, caressing the story and often subtly setting the scene and theme throughout.
Before moving onto the main themes at play, I must give a shout out to Mae’s parents, who are two of the sweetest, most down to earth characters I’ve ever encountered in a game. The moments you spend with them, dealing with money issues, being in on family jokes or attempting to unravel your place in the world are some of the most believable moments I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Honestly, Night in the Woods is worth the playthrough just so you can spend mornings telling lames jokes with Mae’s Mum.
However silly and quirky Night in the Wood’s town and characters are though, there is always more serious issues behind the scenes during your journey. While unravelling a ghost story and reconnecting with your friends, the game addresses several themes which were especially relatable to myself.
Including country town life, the depression and fear which can arise from it, mental health and of course friendships changing and evolving beyond school life. Many of which are not often addressed in mainstream video game culture, or particularly well in media in general, but Night in the Woods does so with an air of confidence and finesse.
Going hand in hand with each distressing or sober moment though, is a healthy dose of sarcasm and witty dialogue. Night in the Woods is an incredibly well written game which had me laughing at every turn and at the same time questioning many of my own notions about life and friendships. However, I could see how the similar sarcastic tone and humour which every character seems to have in Possum Springs could start to become grating to some in this surprisingly long journey.
But it feels necessary in order to combat and balance out the more serious themes at play. And despite a majority of the characters having similar humour, it is their own traits and depth which adds variety to the story and conversations enough to keep it from becoming stale.
However, Night in the Woods does stumble from time to time. Mae’s dream sections, which were at first a nice way to break up the long days of exploration and chats, quickly became tedious due to their lacklustre design and frustratingly hard to make out levels due to poor lighting. Another slight annoyance were slow loading times, which popped up more often than I’d like while exploring Possum Springs. However, none of these issues dramatically took away from my fantastic experience. Besides the fact I wasn’t able to complete all the side quests with Greg or fill out my journal, but I guess I’ll get to them in my second playthrough! (There are a ton of hidden achievements/trophies!).
Featuring a quirky and charming art style, a fittingly subtle and cute soundtrack and down to earth story, Night in the Woods is a serious look at life and at its hardest moments in its various forms. In particular mental health and making the transition to adulthood. It’s also a look at the best bits of life, deep and meaningful relationships and connections, edgy clothes, and of course terrible puns. It’s a tight knit package with more depth than I ever could have imagined going in, and well worth the price of admission.
The PC version of this game was played for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.
Silly and Hearting Warming Story
Down to Earth Characters and Meaningful Relationships