Reviews

Better Late Than Never: Night in the Woods

In my quest to catch up on some of the titles that I have allowed to sit in my game library for far too long, untouched, unplayed or unfinished, I thought it was time to tick another game off of the list. Over the course of a few afternoons and evenings, I managed to play and finish another indie title that I picked up in the PSN sale after having it in my wishlist since its original release. The next entry in the Better Late Than Never series is Night in the Woods.

Night in the Woods from Infinite Fall and Secret Lab was originally released in January 2017. The game was originally released on PS4, Xbox One and PC but is now also available on Android and Nintendo Switch. This is a single player adventure game which focuses on narrative and a certain amount of exploration over the four chapters that you will play through. At around 8-10 hours in length for a playthrough, Night in the Woods is an entertaining game with the feel of a point and click adventure but with a delightful platforming element thrown in too.

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The story follows Mae, a 20 year old who has returned home to Possum Springs after dropping out of college. As Mae returns back to life at home, she will have plenty of people to catch up with and places to explore or visit as she tries to get back into life in this little town. As each day passes, Mae will have opportunities to spend time with friends in an attempt to reconnect with them and start to notice some strange goings on which she’ll feel compelled to investigate.

As mentioned previously, the game is split into four chapters which are around 1 1/2 to 2 hours each depending on how much exploring you decide to do and whether you decide to take some time out to practice some bass guitar! You heard correctly! Mae is a bassist and as part of a band, gets to participate in some little Guitar Hero style music sections where you have to hit the right buttons in time with the track which is harder than expected at times. You may feeling that the game doesn’t seem to get going and you spend the first chapter waiting for something to happen. I implore you to stick with it.

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The narrative is interesting and enjoyable overall (don’t worry, I won’t be spoiling anything for you). There is some underlying social commentary but there is also some focus on mental health which I felt worked well in this particular story. I think what I liked most was that it really did feel familiar in some ways. I went to university, but remember when I would come home for the holidays and things would feel a little different. You had to be an adult but you still didn’t feel grown up because you could still go out and party until 2am and not feel accountable. It felt like a throw back to that awkward transitional part of life but serves as a reminder that not everyone becomes an ‘adult’ at the same time and that it can mean different things to different people at earlier or later stages depending on their circumstances.

What first attracted me to Night in the Woods when it was first released was the art style. The 2-D look with the side scrolling elements along with the platforming sections is delightful but I found the most breathtaking sections to be the dream sequences. I didn’t want these to end as I just thought the design and execution were flawless and a lovely contrast to the day sequences. It really is a stunning game to look at. There is no speaking throughout with all communication of the narrative being through speech bubbles. This suited the game style well but did make things feel a little quiet at time as while there is some music throughout most of the game, it occasionally felt a little thin due to the lack of sound. I found myself checking the volume on the TV to make sure I hadn’t accidentally turned it down. I can foresee this method of conveying the narrative suiting those who don’t mind reading a lot as some of the conversations are lengthy at times and I can imagine some people just clicking through to move to the next part but I would recommend taking your time to read the exchanges between characters because you’ll miss the point of the story.

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I think what I would like to write about most is the story but as I have already said, I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you haven’t had the chance to play it yet. So I have decided to keep my thoughts short and sweet. I thoroughly enjoyed Night in the Woods and am pleased that I managed to carve out the hours in order to finally play it. The game received awards for its narrative and its clear to see why once you have had the chance to play. It has a nice balance of wit and humor but still has the more serious focus on the transition into adulthood. I will need to go back and revisit the game at some point as I feel that there was a lot that I missed but I also chose to hang out with Bea more than Gregg and I would like to see what adventures we would get up to if I went the other way. It’s a cute game, with a lot of heart that manages to move between witty retorts to more serious conversations quickly and with ease which you may find more moving than anticipated. I would certainly recommend giving it a playthrough on your preferred platform if you find yourself with a couple of afternoons spare over a weekend.

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