Developer: Infinite Fall
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
I love it when a Kickstarter project gets funded and then ends up being a great little game. We’ve seen some real success stories over the years, and whilst I’ll admit I haven’t always backed them all myself, it’s great to see developers getting this lump of cash to complete the projects that they so desperately want to create.
Night in the Woods is one such success, raking in over $200,000 when it hit Kickstarter back in 2013. After finally releasing on a myriad of platforms last year, it has now made its portable debut on the Nintendo Switch, bringing with it the additional content that released post-launch on other platforms.
Is it actually any good though, or is it more of a kicksta- you know what, no. I don’t even need to pretend that the game may or may not be good – spoiler alert, it’s bloody brilliant.
So I’m just going to put it out there now: I absolutely love Night in the Woods. I think it’s a phenomenal gaming experience, and one that absolutely has to be experienced firsthand. For that reason, I’m going to steer clear of spoilers in this review – both from a gameplay and a narrative perspective. Just know that everything it does is brilliant and it’s one-hundred percent worth purchasing. If you need a bit more reasoning why though, read on.
One of the wonderful things about Night in the Woods is that it’s so difficult to define what it really is. It treads along the lines of a few different genres, with it feeling like a hybrid of a point-and-click adventure, a platformer, a walking simulator, a rhythm game, and even a collection of mini-games – it really has a lot to offer and keeps things feeling surprisingly varied from start to end.
Best of all, all of the things it does, it does well. Don’t get me wrong, there were some mini-games which were almost a little meaningless from a gameplay perspective, but the context in which they’re used and how they tie into whatever Mae is doing works incredibly well. Night in the Woods certainly prioritises the story it’s trying to tell above all else, but it never stops the player from interacting with it in their own little way.
The story puts you into the paws of the feline Mae, a college dropout who returns home to find that things aren’t how she remembers – the people are the same, but their lives have completely changed. Almost everyone around her has seen their life change in some shape or form (for better or worse) and she now finds herself in a position where she hasn’t only got to accept it, but try embracing change herself. Add to that some sinister going-ons and some emotional bumps in the road, and you’ll quickly find that Night in the Woods’ little tale will take you through plenty of different ups and downs.
The story is great and genuinely tugs on the heart strings with its constant shifting of tone – seriously, sometimes I’d play the game and it’d make me just feel genuinely happy inside, whilst the next scene would just put the mind in overload as a devastating realization comes into place. Everything just feels incredibly human, which is a tad ironic seeing as the entire cast of the game is made up on anthropomorphic animals.
Everything manages to feel natural though, especially the relationships Mae shares with others. I got to a point where I’d be gutted that I’d exhausted all of the conversation topics between each character, whether it’s the nice little talks with Mae’s kinda-cool mom (eeeeeeels!), the constant enthusiasm from her best friend Gregg, the cutting and sarcastic tone from her ex-best friend Bea, or even the cranky neighbour that seems to hold a small grudge against Mae’s behaviour in her younger years – every interaction is just a delight to witness, even if the emotions involved in them might not necessarily be. It takes a clever and well-written game to nail the constant tonal shifts that Night in the Woods goes through, but it absolutely manages to hit the ball out of the park with its brilliant interactions.
Not only is the gameplay a lot of fun and the narrative incredibly well written, but the whole aesthetic of Night in the Woods is wonderful too. All of the characters you meet are well-designed and charming, whilst the environment itself genuinely feels like this lived-in suburban town that’s scraping by despite seemingly falling on hard times.
You know what I like the most about the visuals though? The eyes. It might sound a little absurd to say, and until you witness it in-game you won’t know what I mean, but the way in which Mae’s eyes shift and change shape in accordance with her emotions is nothing short of brilliant. It’s the little touches like this that help Night in the Woods really hit that next level as far as visual design is concerned.
Oh, and the soundtrack is outstanding too. I’ve found myself listening to it outside of the game, and even trying to sing along with ‘Die Anywhere Else’… (oh, that’s a flaw I haven’t mentioned – it’s hard to concentrate on the quirky lyrics and the buttons you have to press for each song in the rhythm sections of the game).
Maybe I’m riding high on the game a bit because I’ve not long finished it (and loved every minute, might I add), but I really think that Night in the Woods is a game I won’t forget for a long, long time. I’d seen all the praise it received and my expectations were high going in, but it somehow managed to completely exceed them – it’s just a wonderful little game.
It blends together a good variety of different gameplay aspects with a story that flows through all the emotions, whilst the vibrant visuals and fantastic soundtrack are just the cherry on top.
Believe me, Night in the Woods is just an amazing game. Do yourself a favour and buy it – you really won’t regret it.