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Playing Catchup: Night in the Woods

With the number of great games released in the past few months, it’s been impossible to play them all.

From triple-A titles to Indie projects, every month has been full to bursting with titles from every genre and little enough time to play one of them. Smaller, newer titles have been passed up for bigger games, and some triple-A’s have even been passed up to make time for their peers.

Thankfully, the summer season offers a chance to catch up on some of these games before the fall piles even more onto gamers’ to-do list. So for the next few weeks, we’ll introduce some games you might have passed up that deserve your attention. This week, it’s the kickstarted adventure game “Night in the Woods.”

Set in the small town of Possum Springs, players control Mae, a cat and recent college dropout who has returned home for unexplained reasons. Not sure of her purpose anymore, she tries to reconnect with her family and friends, adapt to how the world she knew has changed and come to terms with mistakes from her past.

It’s not exactly an epic, world changing adventure, but that’s what gives the game its charm. Each day in the town gives new bits of context for Mae and how she became who she is. A statue, an old parade float or a picture can uncover a memory and a story from Mae, fleshing out her view of the world around her. The visuals and sound bolster this, with anthropomorphic 2D animals roaming the sunlit streets to relaxing, jaunty and melancholy tracks. Ethereal dream sequences drop players into moments of color splashed lighting, with orchestral backdrops that build into hunting melodies.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an adventure game without plenty of dialogue, and “Night in the Woods'” writers Bethany Hockenberry and Scott Benson knocked it out of the park. Each bit of narrative dialogue flows seamlessly, sprinkled with bits of dark humor and wit which keep you hooked and wanting to learn even more. This also extends to dialogue between characters. Mae’s interactions with the people around her feel real and believable, breathing life into each conversation she has. Listening to her neighbor Selmer’s poems; a night spent bumming around a mall with the moody goth Bea; and jokes shared while breaking into a closed down supermarket with the hyperactive Greg feel legitimate and thoughtful, with character’s emotions and backgrounds playing their own role in how events and conversations play out.

And really, that thoughtfulness is what makes this game worth playing. The way the characters are portrayed, from Mae and her friends to the smallest side character, feels so carefully done and expertly executed that their stories and struggles will stick with you long after you put the game down. Through sympathy or empathy, the characters will resonate with real world experiences or people you may know yourself, and they may even help you see your own experiences in a new light.

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“Night in the Woods” can currently be found on Steam for $19.99 and is available on PS4, Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.

 

 

 

About Keenan McCall

Keenan McCall is a journalist and writer with a passion for animation. From video games to anime, anything that sets art in motion will get him talking and writing nonstop.

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