Story focused games are always hard to develop because they require good writing and pace in order to get the attention of players. This is something that the developers of Night in the Woods seem to have taken a keen interest in since it offers a great story, memorable characters and setting, which is all presented in a reasonable pace that keeps you hooked from the start till the end.
Night in the Woods play like a typical slice of life story but it attempts to take some creative liberty with the source material by setting the game in a fictional town called Possum Springs where the town folks are different kind of animals instead of simple humans. While they are designed to be an animal, these characters act like a human which makes for an interesting perspective thanks to the wonderful art style. The art gives me vibes of South Park animated but it is a whole lot better than the simple look of the show. The game works mostly in a side-scrolling fashion where you can explore the town of Possum Springs. It is also part platformer and part interactive adventure while featuring some mini games including a musical game where you can sing along in a band.
Don’t simply dismiss the game based on its visuals. My initial reaction to the game when it was originally announced was the same. It looked a little too generic and boring to me even though I found it pretty in term of the visual design. The thing is, Night in the Woods is actually a fairly emotional journey with a light-hearted tone that sets it apart from other games. It looks like a game that is aimed at kids on the surface, but the story it tells should resonate more with a mature audience.
Night in the Woods tells the story of Mae, a high-school dropout who returns to her town after failing to do anything at her college. The game begins on the day that she has to drop-out and leave college leading into her journey back at home and visiting friends in her hometown. The bond that she has shared with these friends and which continues to build up throughout the story is what makes the story so charming. There is a certain mystery to the town of Possum Springs and you will slowly learn more about the history of Mae as you explore the town and hear the people talk about how they perceive and behave with her. It is a narrative device that has been used successfully here and helps you connect with the main character.
The general gameplay in Night in the Woods is actually pretty linear in nature. Although the game should provide you with plenty of ways to approach each scenario, letting you explore the town as you desire. The town starts with some of its sections blocked off due to some story related events but will gradually open up as you progress from one chapter to the next. There are also some optional conversations that are a nice distraction from the main story and can be fun to discover if you try to look for them. Story progression can end up feeling a little repetitive because it mostly works as a loop in the start. You explore the town, accomplish certain tasks, return home and go to sleep waking up the next day. Although the game attempts to diversify it a bit so it is not all that bad.
The story is divided in chapters while you will be leading the life of Mae around the town. There is usually a event that triggers the next phase of the story and the game doesn’t really offer much hint here so you will have to figure out the goal yourself judging from the conversations that you make with the people in the town. Mae can also occasionally sketch story moments in her journal which are fun to view once you have them unlocked. Since she is a part of a musical band along with her friends, she can also practice by performing songs with them that result in a mini game. I found this mini game a little too difficult, mainly because I wasn’t used to the controls on the Nintendo Switch. The music is great and some of the songs featured in the game are so good you might get addicted to them.
The performance of the game on the Nintendo Switch is surprisingly decent. While there are occasional stutters that make the performance not as solid as you might expect, the load times are fast enough and the visuals look great whether you play it on the portable mode or through the docked mode. The game runs at 60 fps in both portable and docked mode while offering the choice of 720p and 1080p respectively for each mode. The load times might be short but each action results in a loading screen, which can end up feeling a bit too cumbersome.
Two short scenarios can be accessed through the Extras menu that appear to be a side project of the developers when they were working and testing out gameplay elements for Night in the Woods. They are Longest Night and Lost Constellation and they were originally available as free download on PC. The additional Weird Autumn Content pack is a part of the Switch release which is basically an extended version of the original game.
Night in the Woods Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Night in the Woods is a single-player adventure game released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, and PlayStation 4 in February 2017, with versions for iOS, Android and the Nintendo Switch arriving in 2018.
Night in the Woods is as charming as ever on the Nintendo Switch. The performance is a bit of a mixed bag and there can be some bugs, but all said, it is a solid port that offers a great experience whether you play it on the big screen or take it with you for some portable adventure.