Upon completing Night in the Woods, I consider myself to be a citizen of Possum Springs; the small, struggling town the narrative takes place in. It embraces all the features any small hometown would have; the 5-minute away convenience store named the Snack Falcon, a run-down mall that hardly anyone goes to anymore, and the people that have the same routine day-in day-out. To an outsider, Possum Springs seems dull and boring, but any resident would know it’s the little hidden nuances that make the town worth exploring. It’s those little things that kept me coming back and sets up the premise of the start of the game, as the protagonist Mae Borowski returns home from dropping out of college.
Returning to Possum Springs, Mae is met with an array of different reactions from the people she’s grown up with. Her childhood best friend Bea is almost disgusted to see her again, her best friend Gregg cannot contain his excitement and immediately wants to get up to mischief with her, and her mom is happy she’s back but is edging her towards confronting her issues and boy, does she have some. For a game that’s animation strives on its cute, animal characters and modern cartoony backgrounds, it’s surprising how in-depth it delves into realistic and, at one point, very creepy issues. These issues are what define Mae and the other characters inhabiting the town. It’s thrilling to hear every story each character brings to the table as you slowly progress through the game, as subtle hints or throw-away lines allow the player to paint a clearer picture of each character’s personality.
Most of the game is Mae waking up and running across town, optionally talking to everyone she passes by. The town and its buildings make up for semi-platforming exploration that is fun and rewarding when meeting someone you wouldn’t normally see. While the script, filled with hilarious dry humour, is entertaining enough to carry the game itself, it can get tedious doing the same routine every time a day passes. Mini-games such as a Guitar Hero-style band practice sessions and spraying people with water to cheer up Bea broke up these long patches, but were too few and sometimes irrelevant to really make much impact. After a while, I felt that I was waiting too long for the next big thing to happen. Although, a counter argument to that is this is exactly what happens when returning to your hometown with nothing to do, so it almost compliments the realism of the game. When the next big thing did happen though, I was invested in its enthralling mystery that Mae is strangely connected to.
As the game progresses, Mae starts having weird but wonderful dream sequences where I would have to explore and discover four towers that would reveal a person playing an instrument, adding to a delightful soundtrack, until you finish the dream. Although it was a little challenging figuring out where these towers were, it was charming just jumping around to the melodious music of each dream. Although, the third dream had a very jarring industrial background noise to it which got irritating fast. The little musical touches throughout the game, such as the change of guitar tone when you wake up when strange things happen, spark interest and make you want to get to the bottom of Mae’s issues and the towns mysterious happenings.
Night in the Woods draws you in with its quirky design and engaging story progression. Its characters and script get more and more memorable with each day that passes. It’s hard not to talk to everyone in Possum Springs, even though its optional, knowing they may give you an interesting understanding in the towns past or just deliver smart and witty dialogue. It’s all about the little things. Apart from a few pacing issues, Night in the Woods’ engaging story and setting full of personality make for a surprisingly realistic tale that will definitely relate to many players.