Game review: Night in the Woods – brilliant adventure game perfectly captures the feeling of being young
Human foibles and the dread of growing up: Night in the Woods is one of those games you lose yourself in, and somehow become all the better when you emerge from the other side
Getting old isn’t easy. One day, you wake up realising everything’s changed and life has caught up with you. That feeling of being young – that crazy mix of excitement, confusion, fear and discovery – is gone forever and you can’t help but long for it.
That’s kind of how I felt playing Night in the Woods (for PC, Mac, Linux and PlayStation 4), a brilliant adventure game that perfectly captures the feeling of being young. Its world is populated by anthropomorphic animals and players take on Mae, a college dropout cat who’s just moved back to her small hometown.
Days are spent wandering about, chatting with parents and neighbours, hanging with friends when they’re not at their mundane jobs, and generally trying to find a sense of purpose, or maybe just a bit of fun. It may sound frivolous, but it’s helped by its somewhat deceiving “visual novel” tag and particularly solid writing.
Talking is central to the game and, like life itself, there really isn’t a set-out story here, just a series of interactions that alternate between funny, boring, exciting and sad. It all comes down to you, the player, and whether it’s anxiety over attending a forest keg party, a minor argument that breaks out with your parents one morning, or just the tedium of having nothing to do but sit in the park, the narrative elements and the dialogue will eventually hit home.
The developers have a remarkable ability to capture human foibles in all their dizzying glory, particularly the dread of growing up, and it’s all framed against the backdrop of all-too-realistic economic hardships. The run-down town itself slightly changes as your choices change, and while a series of mini-games add an element of expected “gameplay” to the proceedings, it never fully feels like something you have to finish or complete. It just exists.
There’s a lot going on in Night, a lot more than can be squeezed into a tiny review.The game has a cartoony look and animal characters that don’t give a true impression of the deeper aspects of the game. Beautiful and more than a little bit sad, Night is one of those games that you lose yourself in, and somehow become all the better once you emerge from the other side.