I’ve been keeping an eye on upcoming indie adventure title Night in the Woods for some time now. The short ghost story of a game that was Lost Constellation gave us a taste of the incredible world that we would be getting with Night in the Woods, as did Longest Night. After playing the NITW demo at PAX South I can say that I was not disappointed. I might possibly be even more excited for the release of Night in the Woods later this year.
In Lost Constellation, you play through a folktale from the world of NITW. In the NITW demo, you finally get to meet and play as main protagonist Mae Borowski, a 20-year-old cat who has dropped out of college and returned to her small hometown, Possum Springs. Though most of what Mae does in this small glimpse of the game is relatively ordinary (listening to her mother give advice, meeting up with a friend, eating intensely delicious donuts), you also get a sense of some unknown darkness pressing in on Possum Springs and Mae’s deep-rooted melancholy. She has returned home only to find that her old friends have grown and made plans without her. She wants the “good old days” back, but everyone else has new priorities. This kind of gloomy nostalgia is something that anyone who has gone through a period of change and uncertainty can relate to.
I’m looking forward to discovering more about the strange, creepy presence in the game. A drifter tells Mae that he never should have stopped in Possum Springs, and that he’s up on the roofs of buildings because he’s afraid to walk on the ground. An old teacher tells Mae to get out while she still can. Possum Springs seems like the kind of small town that everyone warns you about; if you don’t get out while you’re young, it’ll swallow you whole.
I had a chance to talk to Rebekah Saltsman, CEO of indie studio Finji, which is publishing Night in the Woods. She informed me that the development team (which consists of Scott Benson, Bethany Hockenberry, and Alec Holowka) is personally familiar with the experience of growing up in a small town. That, and the struggles that go along with it, were an important influence in the creation and writing of Night in the Woods.
Speaking of writing, the dialogue I got to see in the demo is perfect; it’s natural, funny, and charming. The characters talk like people would in real life if you cut all the boring stuff out. Possum Springs may be populated by animals, but their interactions feel incredibly human.
This beautiful game from Infinite Fall will be out later this year for PC, Mac, Linux, and PlayStation 4, and you can preorder it for PC, Mac, and Linux on the Night in the Woods website now.