With the vast amount of titles that launch each year, its hard to find reasons to replay a game over moving onto the next in a very tall stack. That’s the first thing I can think to say about Night in the Woods (NITW), one of the first big Indie hits developed by newly created studio Infinite Fall. I had to jump back in more than a few times in order to grasp at a story that far-reached beyond whatever I thought was possible in a game.
Let me back up a second with a synopsis; Mae, a 20 year-old local of the mid-America town of Possum Springs, returns home after dropping out of college, afterward attempting to settle into her old life and friends, with the slow realization that things are not as they used to be.
That’s where we start with our titular main character; a girl going immediately from one life-changing event into a setting that was previously familiar to her.
For those of you saying to yourselves, “Well, that happens in a lot of stories and games”, I beg to differ. Most games involving story I feel for the most part eventually places the central character and cast into places where they become “special” over the course of the game, and I might even discuss “power” as a part of that aspect. Mae isn’t made to feel either one of those, but quite the opposite. Her and her friend’s anxieties over life issues becomes prevalent quickly, pain over positions in life and how they may not have control is part of the picture, as well as the point.
The town they live in struggling to bring industry that used to exist in abundance as well as people to make the area thrive, jobs disappearing and those that used to hold them forced with uncertainty in their futures, these are reflections in today’s times. In subtle ways at times and in others point-blank, NITW holds up a mirror to reflect these anxieties that are happening more in our era. In the concerns it brings up, a strong commentary develops over how we deal, or don’t, with these troubles.
I love how, as Mae, you’re able to interact with each townsperson, getting to know them and those struggles. Many of the relationship-building activities in between range from quick conversations to a handful of mini-games, including jamming out with Mae’s close friends in a Guitar Hero-isc fashion to star-gazing with one of her old teachers. These light-hearted affairs help give balance to the heavier themes throughout the game, that even as things happen, life goes on and we deal with what comes in our own unique ways.
With its charming overworld and cute yet surprisingly deep cast of characters, Night in the Woods is an experience that can reach well beyond the general gaming audience, if given a chance. To get a slight preview of the game mechanics and feel, the team of Infinite Fall has on their main site, http://www.nightinthewoods.com/, two supplemental games that give a bit of back story into the bigger title. Longest Night & Lost Constellation are both pay-what-you-want, with proceeds going to the creators to put into upcoming projects.
NITW is available now on all major consoles, and with a $20 asking price, its worth your time and budget.
“At the End of Everything, Hold on to Anything.”