Night in the Woods may seem like a simple game with cartoonish animal-people, but it’s much more than that. Developed by Infinite Fall, Night in the Woods tells a surprisingly mature and grounded story, despite its cardboard-cartoony style. Using simple controls and gameplay, Night in the Woods sets a beautiful stage for a noteworthy story; one that is excellent to play on the Nintendo Switch. The indie game market has been growing and growing on the Switch, and Night in the Woods is an indie worth looking into.
Story and Gameplay
Night in the Woods is mainly a narrative-driven game. Although it controls like a 2D side scrolling platformer, the game’s focus is on the story. Players control Mae, a recent college drop out who returns to her hometown and moves back in with her parents. Also, Mae and her family are cats. Taking place in the quiet town of Possum Springs, Night in the Woods follows Mae as she struggles to find her place in the world.
Most of your time in Possum Springs will be spent chatting up your neighbors and other townsfolk, splitting your time between favorite friends and family members. Each character in Night in the Woods is highly personable, memorable, and a treat to get to know. A lot of the game involves engaging in smartly written dialogue with other animal inhabitants of Possum Springs, musing on life’s many aspects. Over your stay, you’ll rekindle old friendships with characters like the eccentric Gregg, the intelligent and guarded Angus, and the cold but charming Bea.
Hanging with Friends
In terms of actual gameplay, Night in the Woods is relatively light. The game plays out on a two-dimensional plane, similar to a sidescrolling platformer. You move Mae around town, talking to people and making dialogue decisions. Eventually, a friend will ask you to hang out, leading to a day-ending unique adventure. After you return home for the night, you wake up the next day and start the process over again. You might find smaller gameplay interactions within these conversations and vignette adventures, but the gameplay experience is relaxed. You explore Possum Springs and your own leisurely pace, choosing who to talk to and when.
Unfortunately, there’s only so much time in a day, so you won’t be able to hang out with everyone. Because of this, Night in the Woods often forces you to decide between one friend or the other. Do you go break into an abandoned shop with Gregg, or visit the graveyard with Bea? Your choice is final, and opens up Night in the Woods to a good amount of replayability. Since you won’t be able to see everything in one go, the game asks for (and deserves) multiple playthroughs.
The many interpersonal stories of Night in the Woods are wrapped up in an overarching narrative; a mystery of sorts. People have been disappearing from Possum Springs, and nobody knows why. The police are of little use, considering the entire force seems to be comprised of one officer, Mae’s aunt. The dark mystery of disappearance sets a foreboding tone to the otherwise happy but content atmosphere. Overall, the story of Night in the Woods is fantastic. The characters feel incredibly relatable, the dialogue full of wit, and the mysterious hook keeps you guessing. Furthermore, the setting feels lived in and real, and the town of Possum Springs quickly becomes a memorable locale.
Graphics and Audio
Although the story of Night in the Woods is the focus, the visual style and overall tone absolutely steals the show. Colors pop off the screen, and each screen feels like a storybook. That storybook can be admittedly bleak at times, but the fantastical setting of Possum Springs and the oddity of its animal citizens adds a flare of magic to the experience. Exploring the town and finding new places is infinitely more rewarding thanks to the consistently eye-catching design. The world has a sort of “layered” look to it, and the world has a combination of cartoon visuals and three-dimensional depth that is interesting to behold. This effect works wonders, and simply adds to the aesthetic treat. As a final note, the visual style of Night in the Woods evokes its narrative tone in an interesting way, using both warm and cool colors to form the atmosphere. Visually speaking, Night in the Woods is simply wonderful to look at.
The sound design is equally commendable, and is of consistently high quality throughout the experience. Ambient sounds and tone-setting music work wonders for the atmosphere. Music also plays a pretty big role in the story too, as Mae and her friends are all in a band. You’ll often find yourself in band practice, where you play Guitar Hero-like mini-games to some impressively catchy tunes. The original music in the game is wonderful, and some tracks will stick in my head for years to come.
Should You Buy Night in the Woods?
Despite its cartoon visuals, Night in the Woods tells a heartfelt and mature story. It covers topics like depression, anxiety, drug abuse, domestic violence, and many more. It handles these delicate topics with an knowledgeable touch, and while not every character is likable, it’s easy to understand their perspective. At its essence, that’s what Night in the Woods is all about. It tells a story about finding yourself in a time of struggle, and the power of friendship and family.
Ultimately, Night in the Woods is a game for those who enjoy a good story over anything else. The cast of characters awaiting you in Possum Springs are full of life, and I had an excellent time living alongside them. The combination of tonally evocative visuals and memorable music and sound design made the game a remarkable experience. In a lot of ways, Night in the Woods is about the journey more than the destination, and I thought it was a refreshing and emotional journey worth taking. If it sounds interesting to you at all, I highly recommend you visit Possum Springs as well.