Night in the Woods Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Finji

Publisher:Finji

Release Date: February 1st Out now

Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £17.09 GBP

Story

The story takes place in Possom Springs. Our protagonist, Mae, has dropped out from college and has come back to her hometown after being away for a while. As you take control, you will discover lots of things have changed. Your friends all have jobs, relationships are no longer what they were, and you find out about yourself and how you are regarded in the town. While living your normal life, you are also on a supernatural adventure where you will have to solve the mystery of Possom Springs.

Audio

The soundtrack was composed by Alec Holowka, and the tracks used in this game are fantastic. Have a listen for yourself here on Bandcamp. https://infiniteammo.bandcamp.com/album/night-in-the-woods-vol-1-at-the-end-of-everything

The audio on this game is very good indeed and is a pretty integral part of setting the atmosphere around Possom Springs.  I really enjoyed the mini-games where you just pick up a Bass guitar in your room and play a tune thus turning the game into a rhythm game even if just for a few minutes. Because you are in a band with your friends, you will meet up with them often to play songs which is quite fun.

The sound effects here are really top notch.  Birds will sing while you walk around, and dreams will sound very strange with a band playing in them and you having to find each of the band members. Its very interesting as when you find one band member they will only play the one instrument they have until you find the rest to bring the song together. The NPC’s are not voice acted which is a shame, but there is a nice sound effect to let you know when text appears on the screen. This game has a huge amount of dialogue between many different characters, so I can understand that the makers would have needed multiple actors to voice them. It would have cost a lot, but I can’t help feeling that I would have loved to have seen these characters brought to life through voice.

Visuals and Performance

One thing this game really nails for me are the visuals. Possom Springs looks beautiful, and the characters are very diverse. Mae the cat is the main character, and a posse of Mae’s animal friends, including a bear, a crocodile and a fox, are all drawn nicely. The developers have used a really nice colour palette. In autumn, the leaves are depicted with browns, oranges and yellows. The colours are not overly punchy but neither are they drab. Everything is beautifully drawn, and I could not wait to wake up each day to discover what new things there were to see and explore. When walking around, cars whiz by, birds fly and other small animals go waltzing on by.

The backgrounds also change depending on the seasons which is beautiful to behold. As Halloween approaches, you will notice pumpkins outside people’s doors. At first, something like this may seem trivial, but it works so well in building the scenes and story around you. It’s even better when characters you speak to reinforce what you see through the dialogue.

Mae Jumping

The expressions the characters display when they speak is really impressive: the way the eyes move or when Gregg wiggles his arms to show excitement. The characters are very expressive, and this makes everything feel so much more alive.

One thing that did get on my nerves and broke up the game far too much was the loading times in between each section. Every time you move to a new screen, the game will need to load again. This really disrupts the sense of immersion in a game like this where you are really getting into the world, its story and inhabitants, and it started to become rather annoying after a while.

The game ran pretty much flawlessly, and there were no issues in terms of performance. Then again, there isn’t much here that would really push the Switch to its limits. You will be glad to know that this runs at 1080p in docked mode at 60 FPS and 720p in handheld mode at 60FPS. This is nice to see and keeps everything very smooth.  Be aware though that this is a 6 Gig download for those of you tight on space. There is a good use of HD rumble here but there were no touch screen controls for those interested.

Gameplay

Night in the Woods is a game which took me by complete surprise. It’s touted as a 2D, side-scrolling, exploration game which focuses on story and characters, and in essence it’s an accurate description. You take control of Mae who can be moved around easily like in any respectable 2D platformer. Only this isn’t really much of a platformer. Sure, you can triple jump with the third affording you the ability to reach greater heights, and these jumps will come in useful at some points throughout the game. However, a platformer this is not, well not really although some parts require jumping around like in Mae’s weird dreams or reaching rooftops.  I went into this game completely cold and was pleasantly surprised to find that this game was a little adventure, exploration, a little platforming, lots of mini games and a story with lots of humour and witty writing. The writing is by far the best thing about this game.

All about the story

This is a game which is all about the story, and is one to be savoured.  It requires your concentration and patience. If you’re not into reading, then this game may not be for you. You see, this is pretty much like an interactive book only with more interaction! the chat between characters is excellent.

Routine

As you come back home due to dropping out from college, you soon get into a daily routine much like we all do in our own lives. At night, you can chat with Dad while watching some trash TV with him or not the choice is yours. When you go up to your room, you can choose to go to sleep, play a bit of the bass guitar (which initiates the aforementioned mini rhythm game) or chat to some of your friends via your laptop. Once you go to sleep, weird dreams will insue where you can control Mae to explore these supernatural experiences. When you wake up there is time to chat with mum for a bit and then make your way out of the house into Possom Springs. These talks all feel meaningful and impactful and nothing feels like a waste of time. Everything is a part of Mae’s world.

You control Mae by directing her left or right, and simple actions will usually pop up on screen. For example, talking to someone or looking at a paw picture may initiate an action which might be to steal a pretzel without getting caught, looking further at a severed arm, opening windows, pressing buzzers or picking up items. It’s all simple stuff, but it’s pretty fun finding out more about each situation. There are lots of mini games to have fun with within many of these situations to break up the vast amount of dialogue. Shoot some arrows at a target, swing a baseball bat against long tube lightbulbs or how about finding some stars looking through a telescope but to name a few fun things you can take part in.

 

Choices

Here you can potter around town, chat to folks (animals) all over the place, learn a little more about the past, find items, chat some more with friends and then decide what you’re going to do with your day. The cool thing about the game is you get choices, and the more you explore, the more choices you will find out about. Do you check out the mall with Bae and steal some merchandise via a mini game while you are at it?  Is Bae the bad influence or are you? How about a trip to the woods with Gregg?

To get there, you get to go on an amazing bike ride with leaves flying through the air and beautiful music playing in the background. Once you get to the woods you can have a little knife fight. Yep, that’s right you can stab each other’s hands in a mini game ever so slightly until one of you gives up due to the pain! There are also choices in some of the dialogue, but overall this doesn’t really change how characters relate to you which is a bit of a shame. The game is linear but it does a great job of making it feel more open. Choices have to be made to propel the story forward but in the end the story ends up being the same. How much detail you get from it though really is up to you.

It sounds crazy but for every silly thing you encounter, there are more serious issues to deal with like Greggs problems with his boyfriend and believing that he will end up alone. Conversations often have options in which you can choose what to do. As an example, there is a character you meet early on who wants to recite a poem to you on a daily basis, and you can choose to say yes or no.  I tended to open myself to all options by saying yes for the fear of missing out on something important, but by doing so this the game, of course, lasts much longer.  Again, the choice is yours.

Subject Matter

As the story unfolds it really resonated with me. It tackles depression, loss and just really finding your way through life as a young adult. Mistakes along the way will be made such as getting drunk and making a fool of yourself!  Who hasn’t done that at least once or twice in life? You will forget important things about your friend’s lives which in turn puts a strain on your relationships. You begin to find out that you have made a lot of mistakes both in the past and now in the present.

In between the depressing side of things, there are loads of joyous things to find and do: join up with your pals to practice playing in a band for a great rhythm mini-game: find some pet rats and find some food to feed them: or gather some fireflies to cheer up a friend. Day by day as you live your life there is a structure as in you wake up, go about your day and go to bed. There will be joyous moments, dreadful ones, embarrassing moments and moments of sheer wonderment. Somewhere in there, you will see that there is love which holds and binds everything together. The reason it will resonate with many of you is purely that it’s so much like real life. Even though the characters are fictional the story can be at times hard-hitting. In in between all that there is a mystery or two to solve which really keeps you motivated to keep playing.

Journal

Mae records many of the moments by drawing them out in her journal for you to look back through. It’s a fantastic way of recalling memories or even clues for some of the mysteries around Possom Springs or reminding you of something important which you may have forgotten. It’s helpful when you need to remember something important when you come across it later in the game.

JOurnal

Text, text and a little more text.

This is a game which perfects its genre in telling a story by being filled with beautiful moments. This is not a game which will be for everyone as it requires you to read a lot of text. For some, it may require a little too much reading, and in reality there is not a huge amount of gameplay. I personally enjoyed the change of pace, but some may not. Exploring is fun, but finding some of the hidden places will require you using your jumping skills and that triple jump to reach higher platforms. While pretty fun, it felt like a bit of an afterthought.

Demon Tower, a game within a game

There is a mini-game called Demon Tower with 9 levels to get through which is a top-down roguelike.  You can easily lose a few hours just in this game alone. Night in the Woods is a game which you can complete in about 8-12 hours depending on how many things you choose to do and how much time you spend in Demon Tower! There are multiple endings which give the game some level of replayability, but the length never outstays it’s welcome.

Demon Tower

Value

At $19.99 in the US and £17.99 in the UK, Night in the Woods certainly has competition in terms of games to choose from. But I am certain that this stands tall in terms of the quality this delivers within its genre. Oxenfree is the other game of note of this type, and that was a similar price until it went on sale.

I think many will find it difficult to tear themselves away from Possom Springs even when it ends. This version comes with the extra content called Weird Autumn, and these include the dream sequences when Mae is asleep. The Longest Night and Lost constellation are scenes included from the games pre-released mini-episodes. These were previously only available as downloadable content on the PC.

As the credits rolled, I could not help thinking that I missed out on stuff within the game, so my return to Possom Springs will not be far away.  I think many will need a couple of walkthroughs.  This is a game that anyone can play and there is no real challenge here other than completing Demon Tower and getting all of the multiple endings. As long as you put in the time, then you will complete the game.

Pros

P

Deep and meaningful characters

P

Beautiful visuals and music

P

Fantastic Story

Cons

P

Slow to get into

P

Loading times are a pain