Take a Walk on the Wild Side in Indie Hit Game ‘Night in the Woods’

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A tale about reconnecting with friends, a dark mystery that goes deep into the woods and never turns around, or a parable about overcoming trauma? Maybe Night in the Woods is all three at once. Since bursting onto the indie game scene, a year ago NITW has already won legions of fans in the 12 months since its release.

Night in the Woods was already available on PC, Mac, PS4 and Linux since 2017. Now the hit game which was developed by Infinite Fall, designed by Alec Holowka and animated by Scott Benson has been released into the wild for all to enjoy on mobile devices too. We took a blast through the past with Mae, the chief protagonist of what is an amazing game.

The game features as its star an anthropomorphic cat Mae, who has dropped out of college to return to her hometown of Possum Springs. Except Mae left for a deep, dark reason and all is not well when she arrives back in her former backyard. Mae gradually lifts the lid on a murky past for Possum Springs and its many zoomorphic characters. Solving the mystery and dealing with her own part in that past is the driving narrative of Night in the Woods.

Navigation-wise, I found the game charming if a little challenging at first. It’s hard to immediately know where you’re going, and you can miss where the levels you’re allowed access start and end. But these are teething troubles, not a serious gripe. Mae’s quick paws will soon have you leaping up onto powerlines and risking her life as well as scaring her Mom.

The gameplay is essentially a lot of walking and even more talking, but while initially, this might leave you looking for puzzles to solve, the longer you play Night in the Woods, you more you discover that the puzzle is Mae and solving the game means understanding her. Finding out what happened to her and made her leave Possum Springs is only the beginning.

Visually, the action sometimes stalls a little with the load-screens, but generally, the side-scrolling coming-of age drama plays quite fast. There isn’t a lot of action, nor are there puzzles to lead a path through the literal forest. Instead, your choices are what Mae says and how that influences the characters around her is how to win the game.

With more than a knowing wink to the style of comic book cliff-hangers, Night in the Woods asks you to join the world of four college friends as Mae renews acquaintance with an alligator called Bea, a fox called Gregg and his bear boyfriend Angus (we bet he hogs the duvet). How the narrative plays with the four friends and how stories from the past are told is a really engaging way to make us care about all the characters, but especially Mae.

Able to make you laugh in one scene then cry the next, Night in the Woods succeeds in forming a first-person exploration game that truly captures the imagination but above all make you care. Mae is a complex 20-year-old (being a cat, does this make her old beyond her years?) but you want to figure her out. The story of redemption, self-discovery and overcoming traumatic events could easily pitch either too highbrow or leave you needing more meat on the bone. But Finji’s first-ever game casts the tone just right.

Designer Alec Holowka described the design of Night in the Woods as “narrative-focused” as opposed to focusing on sheer gameplay credibility. But it is a risk well taken. What we experience is a game that is all about the story, which is strong enough to mean you enjoy walking through the game far more the longer your game goes on.

Who knew a game about mental illness, small-town problems and the pressures of a class system that has defined recent politics could be so much fun?

Night in the Woods will grip you not letting you go until you’ve learned many a life lesson and had a lot of fun along the way. Join Mae and her friends on a voyage through hometown horrors in time to make band practice. You won’t regret it.

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