I received “Night in the Woods” as a gift from a friend, who told me that it had been very important to him. I was a bit late to the game, not starting it until almost a year after it’s release, while avoiding any spoilers or information of course. But once I was in, I was hooked. And while I had heard rumblings along the way, about how special “Night in the Woods” was for many people, and how unexpecting it could be, I will admit I still was not prepared for the emotional and sometimes even metaphysical journey that was in store for me. From the wonderful characters, rich with personality and relatable issues, to the small yet deeply developed town of Possum Springs, and everything in between, created, for me at least, a world and experience I could not walk away from until I had experienced it all.
“Night in the Woods” is a heavily story driven game, somewhat akin to a ‘walking simulator’, that follows the journey of Mae Borowski, a young woman returning home to Possum Springs after dropping out of college. In the beginning, this story seems almost akin to a coming of age story, as Mae comes back seeking the comfort and familiarity of her childhood home, family, and friends. But she soon finds that things are not as she remembered them when she left several years before. The town has changed, her friends have grown, and in many ways things seemed to have moved on without her. This story, which takes place entirely in a single weird autumn, touches heavily on the loss of the familiar, and shows Mae having to grow and adjust to all that’s changes around her, and without her.
Of course, this is just part of the story. There is something deeper hiding within the small mining town of Possum Springs. Something ignored and forgotten. Something old that does not want to be forgotten. But, I don’t want to spoil the fun, so you’ll just have to play the game to see what that something is.
Instead, I’d like to talk about what really pulled me into this game, without spoiling the good stuff. It was the characters that really kept me invested. Mae, of course, being our protagonist, was a huge reason why I was inspired to play through this story to it’s end. A young woman at the age of twenty, stuck in that awkward and confusing age between childhood and adulthood, and just trying to find where she fits in with the world. She’s a girl plagued with stress, self doubts, and nightmare eyes, most of which I found to be quite relatable (if only I had nightmare eyes). Especially when I remember back to the few years shortly after I graduated college. Mae just wants to find where she belongs, but her awkward personality, troubled past, and strange, stressful nightmares (which you get to experience), make life all the more difficult for her. And finding that some of her childhood friends have already found their place as adults only makes it all the more frustrating for her.
Just enjoying some pizza with friends at the Clik Clak Diner
Those friends, the excitable Gregg, stoic Angus, and ever nihilistic Bea, were further hooks into this wonderful story. Their interactions together, and with Mae, created this familiar world that I found myself wanted to dive deeper into. I both looked forward to and dreaded their interactions, especially between Mae and Bea, who fought and argued as much as they got along. Seeing the friendships’ resume and mature was a huge draw for me, as I found myself hoping for the best for all of them, against any and all odds. And not just them, but every character in Possum Springs seemed to have a story to tell, no matter how small their part was. It was the little things, like listening to Selmer’s poems, viewing stars with Mr. Chazokov, or spending time with Lori or Germ, really made the town feel alive, ever moving and every changing. And changing more with the actions and interactions from Mae. It was a place I wanted to explore, full of people I wanted to learn more about. All coming together to create an experience worth enjoying, again and again. Which is highly recommended, as you’ll have to play the game more than once if you want to experience every bit of this story.
Just prepare yourself for things to get very strange, and rather dark, as you explore the seemingly innocent town of Possum Springs. A story the blends the seemingly mundane troubles of life and becoming an adult, with more esoteric fears and dangers that borderline on the Lovecraftian. Scenarios that often had me questioning what was real, and what was just a dream. But there’s a lot of inspiration to be found in the shadows of the woods. Though I didn’t expect it myself, the story left me feeling inspired to be myself, to trust in myself when other’s doubt, and to always question what is real, and what isn’t. And most importantly, to fight for happiness in every day.
It’s is just a dream, isn’t it?
And before I wrap up, I’d also like to say a special word for the music of “Night in the Woods”. I’ve always been a fan of games that have engaging and enjoyable music, and this one is no exception. With a musical score designed by Alec Holowka, the songs of “Night in the Woods” will help further engross you into the world. And if you’re like me and buy the soundtracks afterwards, they’ll help you remember all the wonderful, spooky adventures you went on with Mae and her friends. I am especially a fan of the “Astral” songs from her dream sequences, as well as the songs performed by Mae and her band. All together it’s an auditory delight to accompany a fantastic and memorable game experience.
College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades.
And there’s something in the woods.
NIGHT IN THE WOODS is an adventure game focused on exploration, story, and character, featuring dozens of characters to meet and lots to do across a lush, vibrant world. After a successful Kickstarter it’s being made by Infinite Fall, a teamup of Alec Holowka (Aquaria), Scott Benson (Late Night Work Club), and Bethany Hockenberry.