Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years or so, you probably heard about Night in the Woods. It’s one of those games that everyone hyped around and talked about. One of those games that I add to my wishlist with the clear intent of purchasing and playing, but that also has a high chance of becoming just another title in a list I only ever rarely revisit.
Right now, I’m only sad to say I wish I played it sooner.
Mae is a
cat college drop-out, returning home to what she thinks is her old, high school life: cozy house, loving parents, good friends, mischief and a carefree life. But, as she arrives home, a former mining town, she starts realizing that…time changes everything.
Her favourite restaurant is no longer there. The mall she used to spend time in is now almost empty. Her old friends are not the same either, each of them trying to survive in the grown up world. The crumbling economy of a crumbling city has slowly decided each of their paths: Beatrice, who was supposed to go to college and do her things had to take over her family’s business. Greg, Mae’s best friend, has left behind his life of crimes and is now working 7/7 on a minimum wage so he can afford to move out with his long-time boyfriend and start a family. And then there’s Mae, the college drop-out pretending she’s knows what adulting is.
Slowly, she realizes that, not only did things change, but she has to find a path for herself as well. And also, there’s something in the woods. Something that might be the root cause of some terrible events the town doesn’t seem to notice or care for.
Guys, this game is not about the main story itself. That’s simple: Mae gets back home, there’s spoopy things happening, she has to see what’s going on and solve the mystery. How many other games out there are built on the same idea? Several.
What the game does best is creating relatable as fuck characters and situations. Never have you played something that can hit so close to home and it does so with impeccable writing. It’s impossible to play Night in the Woods without going several times like “me tbh”. And I think that’s amazing and scary at the same time.
Deep down, it’s a story about growing up, leaving your teen years behind and learning how to handle responsibilities. It tackles topics such as friendship, depression, money problems, lack of perspective, love life hardships and finding your path. Lastly, this is a game about failure. And not necessarily overcoming it, but learning to accept and understand who you are. Night in the Woods is about coming to terms with yourself.
If you’re here to master the mechanics, it might not be for you. There’s some platforming involved, for exploration purposes and there are some minigames that you can always play if you want to be the best bassist in the world. However, if you ever wanted to see parts of yourself on the screen, then you’re in the right place.
Possum Springs is a beautiful town, full of interaction. While doing your daily rounds, go talk to the teenagers or your old teacher. Go feed the rats. Run up the hill and kick some leaves or make fun of your aunt. And the charming views are paired with an incredible soundtrack. The dream part was my favourite. It’s amazing, I swear. Here’s a sample. You’re welcome.
One playthrough is not enough for you to discover the whole game. You can always hang out with Greg and Bea, but (and I loved this detail) only with one of them each day. The clock’s ticking and the adults have to do their adult stuff. They don’t always have the time to run around with you. It’s amazing how everyone in the game is acting like a real life person. No bullshitting. Reality is reality. And, as a last mention here, I find it extraordinary how, even the supernatural aspect of the game is drawn from real life problems. 10/10 relatableness.
Why did Night in the Woods appeal to me so much? (I wouldn’t be Ruki if I didn’t talk about myself for a bit). I’m also an university drop-out. I had the exact same talks with my parents as Mae had with hers: I wasted money they could’ve put to good use. I gave up the plans they had for me and I have no clear path for the future. I gave up what I was supposed to do, just to run around aimlessly, apparently showing no clear understanding of what responsibilities are. I left my home town when I was about 15, never to return for more than a week a year.
At the same time, I can relate to Beatrice as well. For I finally learned that I have to take care of myself and I refused to go back to the comfort of my home and my childish hopes and dreams. At the same, Greg is that part of me that knows I have to work for the future and for a better self.
All in all, whether or not you are Mae, Beatrice, Greg or parts of them combined, it’s still a story you will enjoy going through. Because it’s real af. And it’s also funny, pretty to watch and has awesome music.
Should you play this? Definitely.