Beta Test #3: Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods
Change. The daunting process of moving on and finding yourself. Whether it’s the change of growing up, or changing a job, or vomiting so hard you change your drinking habits for the first month of 2018… change is coming, and it is inevitable. So what can be done about the unsettling fear that so many of us feel crashing down when things start to turn? And what can we do to stay positive and let go of the past? Find out with me in this weird month.
Wazzup, nightmare eyes! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a vaguely more sober self-confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. This, all in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.
It’s February, my dudes, and like most people that love to make empty promises, I’ve only broken my New Year’s resolution three times! I know, what idiot makes the decision to do anything in January, other than starfish on the floor in front of the air con? Well, this girl apparently. Go me! But aside from the goal setting and parameters I’ve claimed, I’ve been losing myself in one of the best millennial games of 2017. So put down the smashed avocado, step away from the new Kesha album, and buy yourself a house because this one’s a good’n.
Yes, it seems like amongst bar soap and the American dream, the only industry the millennials aren’t apparently killing is the video game one.
Night in the Woods is a thoroughly enjoyable, story rich indie adventure game that sucks you right in from the start. Developed by Infinite Fall, and published by Finji, the game tackles some of the realer and more hard-hitting moments of early adulthood. It plays on the internal struggles of mental illness, the themes of gender and sexuality, and the way higher education is seen. It also explores the manner in which the presence of change in the universe is unsettling and the way people relate to each other through their own broken ways. It is a true critique on the modern age.
Throughout the game, we are able to see these themes through the eyes of the main character, Mae. As a hotheaded gal who has a great fear of letting go of the past, I really identified with her character. And not because she and I have a habit of throwing-up drunk at parties (i.e. the reason I’m sober this month), but because of the way she identifies with her fears and anxieties. Night in the Woods really played on this theme of insight, using a higher intuition to solve where you are and where you’re going to be.
I got the sense that Mae knew too much; she was so highly in tune with the ethereal elements of the world, but so painfully out of focus with the rest of the space. She was pent up and felt like she always had to perform to please people, all the while thinking she’s an embarrassment and a disappointment. Mae’s character is juvenile and impulsive. She gets reckless fast and is prone to bursts of mania, some of which could be seen as confronting if the player is sensitive. Her highly guarded nature is driven by anxiety and repression, and the way she gets it all out is by smashing stuff and dissociating. Her character is genuine, though, and the love she has for her friends, family, and neighbours is both real and warming. For a character with that much thought and depth, I give huge props to the writers. And that doesn’t even include the rest of the main band: Bea, Greg, Angus, Germ, and Lori all have backstories just as deep.
Night in the Woods boasts an impressive narrative that drives the game from a mediocre platform jumper to a true iconic piece of game design. The way the characters interact with each other and the sheer amount of thought that went into the NPC’s is astounding. Almost everyone in town having their own string of dialogue was a genius idea for someone like me who loves a good story with my game; the writing has a fantastic way of making you, the gamer, feel involved. The art style is simple and modern for a 2D render. The autumnal colours give a full, nostalgic view, as though we’re looking back on a constant memory. And the score is gorgeous too.
I love the way mundane activities are portrayed in this game. Having a conversation with your mum at the breakfast table, or filling out your journal feels pivotal, and real. (Which is funny, since the game nods at a fourth wall break in chapter three, making me *feel emotions*.) Because of the infinite reality Night in the Woods facilitates, and for the gorgeousness of all things score and script, I give this game:
5/5 Crimes for style
5/5 Crimes for plot line
3/5 Crimes for easiness
5/5 Crimes for millennial strength
That awkward middleground of not quite adult but not quite kid, too young to be stuck in the one spot but terrified of the outside world, is played with brilliantly. I saw myself reflected right back in so many incarnations of each of these characters. Being stuck in a job that pays the bills, dealing with my anger issues, trying to save what I can with my retail job, and getting professional help to stop my disassociation. It’s hard to not identify with at least one character here. The developers really took the time to understand what young adults are going through in the modern world and the way it impacts their lives. I am so grateful for that.
I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a sober, existential Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked, in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.
Until next time…