Night in the Woods Review
Night in the Woods developed by Infinite Fall was a successful Kickstarter turned into a full-fledged game in 2017. Thankfully for Nintendo fans, the game was ported over to the Nintendo Switch as part of the Weird Autumn expansion edition earlier this year. The game features a town full of anthropomorphic animals dealing with real-world problems.
At its core, NITW is mostly a text-based story game with minor puzzle elements to it. You play the game as 20-year-old cat-girl Mae Borowski, a recent college drop-out with low self-esteem, who returns to her home-town of Possum Springs after being away at college for a couple of years.
Possum Springs is a town struggling to adapt to the new world. Not unlike many cities in the United States that are breaking down; where businesses are closing rapidly and being phased out by newer technology. The environment and state of this town are immediately relatable to many of us who have seen big corporations like Walmart and Amazon come in and destroy local businesses in our cities that we live in. Mae comes back to witness that restaurants and stores she used to shop at are all closed now.
Mae quickly goes to hang out with her old friends Gregg and Bea when she gets back in town, but there is conflict. Bea, an alligator, has had to take over her family business after her mother died despite still being incredibly young. She didn't have any time to mourn her mother's passing and has immediately been thrust into adulthood with the responsibility of working, making a wage, and paying bills to keep her family afloat. Despite being roughly the same age, Bea has had to go through a lot and has aged much quicker than Mae, who is some respects is still a spoiled child. This creates a rift between the two as the story unfolds.
This is just one example of relatable characters in Night in the Woods. As we grow up from teenagers to young adults to actual adults, we've probably all been in situations where some friends had to go through a whole lot that toughened them up and made them have to take responsibility a lot sooner in life than others. Friendships can be torn apart or drift away during these years and Night in the Woods does a fantastic job of exploring that angle in their character development.
I was fascinated with the real-world problems they gave to the main characters in this game. Gregg the Fox, one of Mae's best friends, deals with what is most likely bipolar disorder where he gets very manic and hyper about things but also has moments of destructive behavior, depression, and a lack of self-worth. He questions whether he'll ever be good enough for his boyfriend Angus. Gregg deals with problems not unlike most of us growing up where we question if we can be loved or if we're actually good enough for our significant other in a relationship.
Gregg is also involved in some of the best moments in the game. From his hyper-positive attitude to the crimes he wants to commit, he often had me laughing with a ton of his actions and dialogue throughout the game.
The story in Night in the Woods is both a coming of age tale, but also a larger murder mystery. Shortly into the game, the main characters come across a severed arm in the middle of town. This occurs after you learn about another teenager who has recently gone missing. Something is not quite right about Possum Springs, and it's up to Mae and her rag-tag group of friends to figure it out.
Being that Night in the Woods is primarily a story-based text adventure game, I don't want to get into too much further detail about the plot beyond this. But I will say that things get a bit crazy if you look into all the lore and as you progress towards the end of the game. There were definitely several moments and events that I was not expecting.
I will say the game is significantly longer than I expected it to be. That may be because the Nintendo Switch version contains the Weird Autumn expansion baked in, but I ended up spending over 25 hours playing through my first playthrough of the game. Depending on how many areas you try to explore, villagers you attempt to talk and interact with, I'd say the average play time will be between 10-20 hours.
The Weird Autumn Edition also includes two smaller prequels you can play called "Longest Night" and "Lost Constellation." The first is a very short scene where the main characters hover over a campfire and discuss the meaning of the stars above. It takes probably only 10-20 minutes to complete. However "Lost Constellation" is a bit meatier and roughly takes one to two hours to complete. This adventure stars a brand new character and is a story told by Mae's grandfather to Mae when she was a little girl.
It should be noted that the game does require multiple playthroughs to see every scene in the game. The player is often given a choice of hanging out with one friend or the other (Gregg or Bea), but you are not able to hang out with both on the same night most of the time. So if you constantly hang out with Bea, then you end up missing a lot of Gregg's scenes and Mae's relationship with Gregg and vice versa with Bea if you constantly hang out with Gregg. On top of that, unfortunately, there is no way to replay anything in the game or perform a chapter or scene selection. It's one of the only faults I found in the game as I would have loved to have been able to replay a mini-game like the Knife Fight or Smashing light bulbs or Mae's nightmare scenes. It's unfortunate that you can only experience some of these fun moments just once unless you do a brand new playthrough.
The only other minor issue I had with the game is that there are frequent load screens. Luckily, most of the load times are relatively short, but you will encounter load screens any time you change a room or section of the town, so this is going to happen a lot during the 10-20 hour playthrough.
Not just a text adventure
While the core of Night in the Woods is a story based text adventure where Mae travels around town, interacting with the townsfolk and her friends with dialogue trees, I was actually really impressed with all the little different gameplay elements they added to the game in the form of mini-games and puzzles.
Mae and her friends Gregg, Bea, and Angus, have formed a garage band and throughout the game, you have band practice. Mae plays bass guitar, and the songs are played out in a Guitar Hero/Rock Band type style of pressing the correct button combination when it reaches the bottom of the screen.
Another impressive mini-game is the PC game Demon Tower that Mae (the player) can play at any given time when Mae is in her bedroom. Demon Tower is basically a small action adventure game in the vein of The Legend of Zelda/The Binding of Isaac. Demon Tower consists of 10 separate tower levels with traps and several different monsters and a unique and fun boss fight at the end of every level. It's really quite impressive as this game could be sold as it's very own small game, but they package it within Night in the Woods.
There are other smaller mini-game type events in the game. My two favorites were smashing fluorescent light bulbs with a baseball bat and the knife "fight" between Mae and Gregg where you had to try and stab your friend in the hand until they surrendered. There are a few other moments like trying to steal pretzels from a vendor or shoplifting at the mall without being caught.
Music to my ears
Another thing I have to praise is the soundtrack to Night in the Woods. I thought it was incredible. Music was relaxing in some scenarios, chilling and spooky at other times. They did a great job of creating an excellent atmosphere with the music. The songs that play at Band Practice are extremely catchy, and the lyrics are hilarious. But by far the highlight of the game's music comes from Mae's nightmares she starts having during the game. Mae has these crazy nightmares/visions, and she must find the ghost band members, the Deep Hollow Hollerers during these nightmares. The songs that they play are incredible. Astral Alley is one of the best video game songs I've ever listened to. While playing through that specific nightmare scene, I just stopped playing and listened to the song for several minutes. Since beating the game, I've gone on YouTube and just listened to the 10-hour version of that song for several minutes straight. It's such an incredibly catchy tune.
Who Should Play This Game?
I honestly feel everyone should play Night in the Woods. But especially any individual who may deal with depression, feeling like an outcast, dealing with financial problems, relationship problems, mental health problems, etc. Considering everyone I've ever known goes through these type of things, I think everyone should play this game because these characters are so beautifully written and portrayed with real-world problems that you will be able to relate to them on one or several levels.
What Makes the Game Worth Buying?
I've always been impressed when video games do something different and unique. There are amazing high-quality video games released every single year, but as great as they are many are at least somewhat similar to an experience you've had before with video games. A great RPG can offer so much to a gamer, but ultimately you've probably battled monsters and experienced a fantasy story like it before. Same goes for intense shooters or action games. Night in the Woods offers something completely different and unique. It's a fantastic story with engaging characters that are more relatable than 99% of what you normally experience in video games, and for that reason, I truly believe NITW is a game you shouldn't miss out on. And don't forget, "Gregg Rulez OK!"
Emotional storytelling and dialogue better than most other games
Characters and their problems are extremely relatable
Amazing soundtrack throughout the game
Fun mini-games like Demon Tower, Band Practice, Smash the light bulbs and knife fight
Gregg and Mae's interactions
There's no way to replay a scene or chapter
Frequent load screens throughout the game
Disclaimer: We received a Nintendo Switch review code for this review.