Night in the woods: a look at surreal life problems the video game

This game touched me on so many levels it was pretty surreal. From the start of being forgotten at the bust station to the awkwardness at parties and odd social groups Night in the woods if you remove the university dropout aspect (primarily because I’m still working on that goal) makes me really think this is like watching my life play our if only I was a cat, and 20 and got into university. Well it’s close enough anyway. It made me a little paranoid that maybe Infinite Fall were spying on me and my adventures although that’s roundly brought back to reality by the fact that you couldn’t pay even the most desperate man to endure that kind of torture.

The game’s biggest appeal for me was the art style. It’s so refreshing and vibrant but at the same time its deceptively simple. In an age of gaming where everything is 4K, UHD, Photo realistic it’s great to see something come along with a style that’s far more artistic and in reality, after paying I can’t imagine how this game would look in any other style. You play as Mae Borowski, the afore mentioned college dropout who has returned home to rebuild her life. Characters are probably the simplest art in the game for me but that’s also an appeal. Because the game relies on the narrative rather than the appearance to tell its tale.  Animations are also kept simple and characters have an almost cut out look to them. Environments are also impressive in this game as the use of colour is important in making each environment seem unique and reduce the feeling of things being samey which can and does happen at points because of the style that’s used. For instance, the scenery for an adventure with angus one of the core side characters looks quite similar to an area from late on in the game. Animations despite being simple are all done very well too with each movement adding the right touch to almost every situation which in this game is VERY important because there is no voice acting at all. The games story heavy approach is all done through speech bubble text that appears close to each of the characters which fits rather nicely within the games aesthetic. The game plods through a few seasons focusing on autumn and winter and the scenery does change accordingly to meet these. Falling leaves are a nice touch to the environment and they interact well with the player and characters making them seem like a bit more than just background.

as stated you play as the glorious saviour of the world… wait… that’s the wrong game… you play as Mae Borowski, College dropout and all around very useless spud. You start this adventure by returning to your quaint little hometown of Possum Springs. the town is pretty small and a close-knit community lives there. The kind of town you see in the Midwest of the USA with not many inhabitants, jobs or commerce but somehow manages to still get by. Mae’s return to town is heralded primarily by her two closest friends, Beatrice and Gregg. These are the two alongside Greggs boyfriend Angus. I took a special liking to Angus if I’m honest. He is nerdy, has poor social skills and is the kind of guy you’d see standing in the corner awkwardly at parties who would break down in panic if you said hi to him which makes him more relatable when his partner Gregg is the games eccentric and hyper active character, everything with Gregg is a huge deal and of great importance. The other primary character is Bea. Bea is the mellowed and responsible voice of reason in the game but not through any choice of her own. As you progress down the story with her you learn a lot more about her past and why she is this way and its rather saddening when you realise that you’ve spent majority of the game being an actual dick to your closest mate. The games story focuses on the relationships that Mae has with these three characters and her family. For me it was a heart-warming coming of age story with lots of relatable dialogue and even emotional moments. There’s a part in it about how Bea would love to go to college and resents Mae for dropping out and that resonated with me and how I would feel if my mate did that. Mae stumbles through event after event somehow managing to make the best of almost every crappy situation that life in her hometown can throw at her, there’s a particularly heart-warming scene in a shopping mall involving a fountain that made me stop for a minute and think that these characters had actually developed an attachment for me. I felt invested in them and their stories and when they laughed I laughed and when they were down I genuinely felt down too which for me is the sure-fire sign that the game has been written so damn well. When you feel part of the story that’s being told and can relate to it to that extent, either you’re emotional attached to the tale or you just happen to lead the same kind of weird life and you’re sat there thinking. Damn. This must be how people see me. The story for the game is very solid and well thought out for me right up until the end. Any inkling of had about this games themes and plot were blown out of the water when the big reveal finally came and to say big is probably really overstating things. The end totally blew it for me because it removes all the relationship building stuff with the friend characters and the coming of age and hardship dialogue that had been 98% of the game up until this point and it slaps in the biggest turd you could think of. A creepy cult of old men praying to a mystical hole in the ground to save their run-down town from death. No wok, this hasn’t been totally thrust upon us. Through some psychedelic dreams and a loose ghost story driven plot in the later stages of the game it does fit … barely. The ending was so anti climatic for me that I kept expecting it to continue from that stage but it didn’t. it had some exposition from the characters and then bam… signed, sealed, delivered. Overall the ending to this game is meh which for me is very anti-climactic. The game is pure gold right up until it gets all supernatural and I feel they could have run the stories with Gregg and Bea a little longer and ended there. but as a whole the games narrative is very impressive.

The meat and potatoes of any video game is its gameplay and for night in the woods this is very… basic. The games reliance of a very heavy story driven progression doesn’t leave a lot of room for actual gameplay but that’s not to say that there is nothing for you to do except read text boxes and dunk your digestive. The game is a side scroller that has a surprising amount of verticality to it. I often found myself leaping onto rooftops and power lines as if I was batman and not a twenty something cat girl. The verticality is helped by an interesting jump mechanic in which every third successful jump will propel Mae into the air for a short while. This comes in very handy when trying to access one or two of the games more hidden little minigames such as star gazing which requires you to meet your former teacher atop his three-story house roof which entertainingly can only be accessed from three houses away and involving a lot of platforming. The minigames are a lot of fun too, the afore mentioned star gazing lets you get a little insight into the astronomy of the world and dig a little deeper into the relationship between Mae and her former teacher (it also comes in handy during your day out with Angus as it wows him that you know about the stars). The other minigames involve a onetime shoplifting game and band practice for Greggs awful but entertaining band where you are the base guitarist. I sucked at the band game because I personally have never been good at the guitar hero styled minigames in any game that they have appeared in. I lack the rhythm and the hand eye co-ordination. Especially the later as that’s also why they never picked me for sports at school. Turns out football isn’t a sliding game. The mini games offer a nice break when they happen from the dialogue heavy progression of the story and even got a smile out of me but overall the gameplay is still very meh for the most part primarily because it seems to be lacking in actual gameplay that isn’t walking through an environment.

To match the engrossing tale of the cut-out animals and their troubled lives the games has some rather enjoyable music to accompany it. So much so that I made it a point to buy the soundtrack on steam after id finished the game. That always struck me as a hit and miss thing and a little bit of arrogance on a publishing side to assume that your soundtrack is going to hit it off with your player base so much they’ll want to spend more cash for it on top of your game. But thankfully for Infinite Fall their soundtrack is gorgeous. It’s very mellow mostly. Relaxing music that’s played as you wander through town or through the various out of town locations with your friends. It makes you feel kind of warm inside at points and adds to the games overall mood. The soundtrack does have diversity too as the game isn’t all sombre enjoyment with your friends there is also some moments of tension, anger and even fear and urgency as the more supernatural aspects of the game start to come into play. Scenes involving the cult have a more eerie tone at times and I love it. You don’t really have a lot of love for them and that is reinforced by the games soundtrack. I felt it was a great score, well worthy of my extra spare cash to add to my media library. Hell, I might even play it some time 😝

To sum up a night in the woods it reminds me a lot of the adventure games from the early 90s where text was the primary answer to every issue and dialogue was the king of action. The story is rich and engrossing if not a little bit anti-climactic and for me slightly out of touch with the rest of the game, like resident evil 7 the send fits but its only on a technicality. It doesn’t meld well with the overall package that has been shown and that I enjoyed so much. The soundtrack and art style steal the show making for an incredible gorgeous and audibly enjoyable world that includes so monotonous but fun gameplay mechanics. For the asking price of the game it is EASILY worth the purchase and if you enjoy it the soundtrack too. Even now I feel a little down by the story because it was very relatable to my life and some of the friends that I do have. Especially Gregg, because we’ve all got that one guy who is a total Gregg.

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2 thoughts on “Night in the woods: a look at surreal life problems the video game

  1. This was a great read. I’ve heard so much about this game in the last few weeks, I really need to make time to check it out. 😀
    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook.

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