Night In The Woods

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This brilliant patchwork of storytelling, vandalism và melancholic reminiscences at the local mall is set to go down as a millennial classic


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Mae is a trăng tròn year old college dropout, trying to lớn re-acclimatise to lớn moving back home. Trying lớn survive the ghostly murderous thing in the woods. Photograph: Night in the Woods
Mae is a trăng tròn year old college dropout, trying khổng lồ re-acclimatise lớn moving back home. Trying to survive the ghostly murderous thing in the woods. Photograph: Night in the Woods
Mae Borowski is 20-years old, a college dropout with anger problems, and staring at herself in the full-length mirror in the attic bedroom of her childhood home. She pats down her shirt, tentatively reassures herself that her build is sturdy rather than round, và tells her reflection, “You’re a smooth talker. You’re a smoothie.”

She narrows her eyes, and her shoulders relax.

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“I make my own luck.”

Night in the Woods, which arose from a successfully funded Kickstarter by the development studio Infinite Fall và Austin-based quảng cáo trên internet Finji, bills itself as an adventure game. Players assume the role of Mae in this 90s-inspired 2d platformer, but perhaps what Alec Holowka, Scott Benson, and Bethany Hockenberry have made could be best described as a narrative-driven experience. Or a side-scrolling mystery. Or more of an occasional platformer with an always stunning soundtrack, courtesy of Holowka. If you dig around, you can even find a roguelike top-down dungeon crawler in there (thanks to Adam Saltsman, of endless-runner Canabalt). Night in the Woods is a lot of things at once, & to boil it down to any one of them would not vì chưng it justice. It is a patchwork collection of melancholic narrative, anarchic vandalism, và bass-playing. It is brilliant.

Focusing on Mae’s attempt lớn re-acclimatise to lớn living in her hometown after dropping out of college, Night in the Woods is expertly written, & boasts fully fleshed out characters from stoop-dwelling poets to Mae’s childhood friends, Angus, Bea and Gregg. While perhaps a bit more slowly paced than some may prefer, especially when it begins to lớn feel as if it’s leaning too hard on Benson’s animation roots towards the end, it rewards the patient & the curious. As you explore the disquietly crumbling town of Possum Springs, it is clear that characterisation is the game’s strength. Dialogue is understated and clever, never overemotional without earning it. In one scene, Mae & Bea head to the shopping mall where they used lớn hang out as kids in an attempt to salve their now tense relationship. Instead of the glittering 90s hangout Mae remembers, the pair find it full of Dollar Stores và shuttered shops. Even the water fountain is turned off. They wonder where the mall of their youth has gone, where Bea admits to lớn having stared up at the food court’s glass ceiling, believing it was where God lived. She says, embarrassed, “I used to lớn stare up there, eating a burger, trying khổng lồ see if I could see God.” They laugh at themselves, at each other, and scrape together enough change to lớn grab milkshakes on the way home.

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Night in the Woods, published by Finji. Photograph: Night in the WoodsFrom barbarous jabs swapped between friends, khổng lồ quiet riverside reflections about inaccessible upward class mobility, lớn sheepishly confessed thoughts on God’s real estate, Hockenberry & Benson have written a game which easily sits next to lớn the likes of Oxenfree, Gone Home, và Kentucky Route Zero as a modern day classic. Night in the Woods is, ostensibly, about the ghostly murderous thing in the woods. Perhaps there is a plot where this murder and others are concerned, but it doesn’t feel as if that is the point. In the same way that Kentucky Route Zero is about delivering a package, Night in the Woods is about stopping a ghost. Which is khổng lồ say, it isn’t. It’s about losing God in the ceiling of a shopping mall & getting milkshakes. It’s about that uneasy feeling at the kết thúc of a party when your friends all quietly decide to just go trang chủ and go to bed. They are busy. They are working. They are working so hard, & they have grown up so much faster than you have. “There is a hole at the centre of everything,” you are told, và maybe Night in the Woods is about exploring that. If you let it.

While slow in patches when it deviates from its core strengths, or occasionally fiddly in its mini-games, the game is buoyed by its dialogue, warm & charming art style, & Holowka’s soundtrack (available to lớn purchase on his Bandcamp), which keeps even the occasionally clunky platforming from feeling too tedious. The mini-games don’t overstay their welcome (despite how bad I am at any and all rhythm games), & as a whole the game deals with its themes of liminal early adulthood và melancholy millennial stagnation with grace, maturity và humour. Night in the Woods is not a feel-good experience, more tear-jerker than side-splitter, but it never feels malicious. Even when your dialogue choices are reduced to Mae’s temperamental outbursts, it is khổng lồ narrative interest. Refreshingly, Mae is not a likeable character; she is not a hero. She’s tired và depressed và wonders where God has gone. She misses the pasta place in town. She wants lớn smash capitalism & get a đáng yêu girl’s number. She wants to lớn survive being 20, to survive a failing job market, khổng lồ survive a night in the woods.

PC/Mac/Linux/PS4; £14.99 (Steam), £18.99 (PSN); Pegi rating 12+


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