Night in the Woods hits too close to home. Life changes once you hit your twenties, even if you’re still fit as a teenager biologically. Older people expect the most from you, and they’re disappointed if you fail, even when you’re still in the earliest of your twenties. You’re supposed to adapt to more responsibilities, and older people become suspicious the longer you put them off. Finally, as you progress in your twenties, you become increasingly aware of your inevitable mortality; it seems far off now, until you realize time seems to speed up. This is what Infinite Fall’s Night in the Woods is all about, and I was more than happy to experience it at E3.
Mae is a 20-year-old anthropomorphic cat who has just moved home. She is restless, and she spends her days climbing buildings in her home town, much to her mother’s chagrin. Despite being in the earliest of her twenties, Mae becomes increasingly aware of her mortality, and she attempts to live on top of the world while avoiding responsibilities. Oh, and there’s apparently something in the woods, but that wasn’t covered in the demo (see the featured trailer).
Night in the Woods is a hybrid of adventure games and platforming; however, the game leans more towards the former. Mae’s world is a two-dimensional plane in which she can only travel left or right. As a cat, Mae is an avid climber and is able to remain perfectly balanced while walking on telephone lines, even though she walks on two feet. Mae jogs at a normal pace, and she jumps at a decent height. She can increase her height by jumping in a similar cadence as a player would use in Mario 64 (three consecutive jumps).
While she is free to go in either direction, Mae needs information to determine her course. Mae will come across contextual hotspots, and players can press square to access the information they hold. These hotspots not only serve as a means of communication between NPCs but for triggering memories. My only issue is that there are many contextual memories, and players will need to do a lot of reading in between plat-forming.
However, this is all worth it because the writing is brilliant. Mae is a wonderful, relatable character. She begins the game wondering what would happen if she burned down with her house, decides to become a Dracula, and continues to use Dracula in place of vampire. As I read more of Mae’s thoughts, I was reminded of my own, bizarre thoughts—particularly when she reminisced over her memories. In addition, Mae is witty, and the game’s dialogue perfectly emphasizes this. Mae and her friends’ dialogue seem to be inspired by the infinitely quotable lines from Adventure Time and Regular show, and it also nails the familiar adages that every middle-aged and elderly person constantly gives to the youth. One moment, an associate professor will give Mae advice that she should leave the town and make mistakes while she is still young; in the next moment, Mae and her friend Gregg are describing the ecstasy they’re experiencing while eating donuts with satanic-patterned sprinkles.
I only complain that the dialogue gives no hints towards the rest of the story (still wondering about those woods). The dialogue between Mae and the citizens is charming, but the game only gives vague hints about what lies in the woods. I’m positive this will be addressed in the full-game, but I also hope that the game doesn’t provide too many auxiliary scenes, even though they do an adequate job at fleshing out the characters.
Night in the Woods is a fantastic surprise, and I even think that Sony should have shown it off during their press conference. The game also has an amazing soundtrack that could have sent chills down each member of the audiences’ spines (again, see the trailer above). If you want a game that hits maybe too close to home, then you should check out Night in the Woods, which will be released on PSN in 2015.