Wot I Think: Night Of The Rabbit

By John Walker on May 28th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

I am a remarkably optimistic man. I’ve been reviewing adventure games since 1999, starting approximately 17 minutes after the best in the industry stopped releasing their classics. It’s fair to say I’m frequently disappointed. But I remain ever optimistic that each time this could be the one. And with Daedalic, I am certain they’re going to get there. Will Night Of The Rabbit be the one? Here’s wot I think.

Night Of The Rabbit is a huge, gorgeously hand-drawn point-and-click adventure, bursting with passion and spirit. In so many ways it’s so very adorable. Oh, and barely makes sense, infuriates with illogical puzzles, and fluffs up its storytelling in the last five minutes.

Daedalic are clearly a very talented bunch. But it’s my belief that they’re also incapable of editing. Their long, often rambling games contain many, many gems, but a great deal of filler too. And the often very enjoyable Night Of The Rabbit feels more weighed down with this than ever before.

You play a twelve year old boy, Jeremy Hazelnut, which on its own is a pretty novel start. With two days left of his summer holidays, he’s on the hunt for adventure in the woods by the house he shares with his mother. And finds it. There are portals, talking frog statues, talking rabbits on their hind legs, a village of mice and hedgehogs, peculiar trees, mail-delivering frogs, and all throughout a sinister undertone that something much more serious is going on.

There’s a lot packed in here – too much, as I’ll argue – but along with traditional pointing and clicking, as you progress you’ll gather a bunch of spells that are used on characters and environments, along with a peculiar version of Happy Families as a card game to play with people, and even a collection of mini-audiobook short stories set in the same universe.

Jeremy is very nicely voiced by 13 year old British voice actor Jed Kelly, which makes for a refreshing alternative from the usual “get a woman to voice the boy” approach of games and cartoons. And it’s such a massive pleasure to report that whatever was going wrong with Daedalic’s localisation for English recordings is entirely fixed. The whole cast is great, and there is clearly – at last – some voice direction taking place meaning that coherency is maintained. It’s such a dramatic improvement from their previous output that it makes me want to pull out my own eyelids that they’ve made such a terrible hash of editing some of the sound files.

For no forgivable reason, a good few of Jeremy’s lines are lazily clipped, with stutters of other words appearing before or after. Descriptions of inventory items are the most frequent source, with pops and blips left all over. It’s stuff even I could have cleared up with a copy of Audacity in about half an hour, and there’s no excuse for it to be in the game.

The larger issues come in the sprawling nature of the game. It’s definitely something to be celebrated that Daedalic’s games aren’t a linear series of point-n-click puzzles, but rather a broad spread of locations and a bunch of tasks to be solved within them. But the issue is that there’s just no sense of flow. The cascade, the sense that figuring out X gives you a path toward figuring out Y, is one of the biggest appeals of the genre. But when puzzles almost inevitably end in a new dead end, it becomes demoralising.

Successfully realising that you need to combine this with that, so you can use it on the other, and thus get the object needed by whoever – that’s meant to then open up the next element. But in Night Of The Rabbit you can bet your bum it’ll end in someone saying, “I’m still not happy to do that yet.”

What happens to the player is a sense of having failed, rather than succeeded. I’ve completed the puzzle, and my reward should be a sense of progress. But instead I’m told I’m exactly where I was, and now I have to do something else (and possibly something else after that), before things can go anywhere. And this is so very frequent. This constant – and it really is constant – sense of failure pervades the game, and it’s such a shame. A successfully solved puzzle should always advance a scene, progress the narrative – not leave you stationary and despondent. (Oh, and don’t bother wasting your time collecting the 30-something droplets hidden throughout – astonishingly this also ends in a big fat nothing at all.)

Night Of The Rabbit gets away with so much of this because it exudes charm like a waterfall. Heck, it’s a game about hedgehogs and owls living in the wood, threatened by crows and weird snakes in masks, but living rather lovely lives all said. That really does carry it a long way. As does the sense of intrigue as to the undertone of darkness that seems likely to blossom at any moment.

However, having finished the very long adventure, I can warn that expectations shouldn’t get too high. The game constantly lays down some new layers of what might be going on, questions the motives of key players, introduces new possibilities of what may be going on, and really what was driving me forward through its often frustrating puzzles (there are far too many moments that could only be solved by clicking everything on everything, or a walkthrough) was having this be unpicked and understood.

It is. But not during the game. Instead, once you’ve finished the final puzzle, everything’s explained to you in a big rush in a cutscene. Not only is it an anticlimactic way to deliver on the promises made earlier in the game, most of those reveals are themselves a big anticlimax. One particular element that plays throughout hints at something very personal to Jeremy, and potentially very moving – but in the end it’s just a big nothing, the reveal of what it really was, and the cause of it, and the dull resolution, all crammed into that garbled ending. This is more of a shame, since a very smart sequence preceding it all could have been neatly used to reveal surprises while you were still in control.

It’s also worth noting that the quality control slips away in the final act, which also seems to be a repeated theme in the developer’s games. A couple of lines of recorded dialogue go missing, one object description is just “{_Text345_}”, and spelling mistakes pop up.

There’s no doubt that Daedalic are getting closer to the adventure game for which they’ll be warmly remembered. And the fixing of the English voice recording is a massive step – it’s fantastic here. But damn, they need to edit. They need to start chaining puzzles together – while still maintaining multiple threads at the same time of course – so the player gets to feel a sense of progress. And they need to remember to tell their story through the game itself, not in what might as well have been a few pages of text at the end. Night Of The Rabbit is unquestionably charming, and wow, the art is exceptional. But when my driving factor to stick with it was to learn the rest of its story, it’s hard to come away without a sense of disappointment. Closer – they’re getting closer.

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44 Comments »

  1. Shuck says:

    Based on the screenshots, I have a question: what role does Alan Moore have in the narrative?

  2. soulblur says:

    John, I love almost everything you write, so please don’t stop that. But I do have to ask: you teased that Kingdoms of Amalur was something great, and then I’m pretty sure you haven’t written anything about it since. So was that something, or are KoA and I just going to fool around on first base forever?

    Also, has RPS stopped doing Kickstarter Katchups? Cause I liked those.

    But, yaknow. Don’t stop doing the other stuff I love either.

    Maybe consider clones.

  3. tanith says:

    The review to this sounds similar to what I thought about Deponia. Which is a shame. :(
    Apart from the main character, who I hate so much I cannot describe it in words, the world, the other characters and the voice acting seemed really good. But the puzzles made so little sense it was almost infuriating. I just quit the game halfway and was done with it.
    It’s sad that Night of the rabbit has similar problems, which means I’ll most likely skip it entirely. For me gameplay and controls are king and if the puzzles don’t make sense then something’s terribly wrong.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      I actually found all the puzzles in both Deponia and Chaos to make complete sense. And in case you couldn’t figure them out, you had a skip button.

      Unless you’re not talking about the puzzle minigames, but the puzzling item fetch. I can’t say I didn’t like it, but I can understand how it might be hard to adapt Rufus’ peculiar mindset to find the solutions.

      Hating Rufus though is like playing Mario 64 and having a deep hatred for Italian-accent shouts of joy.

      • tanith says:

        The minigames were actually okay, if I remember correctly.
        What was infuriating is figuring out which items to combine and which item to use where. At the beginning it was okay but as the game progressed further it became more and more obscure.

        And personally I cannot see how one cannot hate Rufus. He is just like Cartman. So egocentric that he practically lives in a world different from everybody else.

        • Mr. Mister says:

          The thing is, you don’t have to take Rufus seriously, you’re being more severe than his injuries.

          • Aninhumer says:

            Obviously his obnoxious personality is intentional, but that doesn’t automatically make him bearable. If this kind of character is handled well they can be used as the source of many jokes. But here I feel like the same “Look, he’s a jerk!” joke is played over and over, without much variety. Humour is always subjective, and clearly you enjoyed it, but that doesn’t mean other people are wrong to say they can’t stand him.

    • wisnoskij says:

      Deponia 2 fixed all my issues with Deponia, and they were numerous.

    • TheTingler says:

      I utterly hated Deponia, and loved Night of the Rabbit. I agree with what John said about the ending, but otherwise I disagree with the puzzles – with just a few exceptions I felt they flowed into each other quite well. I don’t think all puzzles have to rub up against each other and connect dot-to-dot, I much prefer to have several to do at once so if I get stuck in one I can concentrate on another.

  4. strangeloup says:

    Is there anyone who can actually make decent adventure games anymore apart from Telltale and Wadjet Eye?

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Daedelic’s certainly are far more than decent, but they always have some key elements that extremise their opinions among the audience.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think it’s more than a bit generous to include Telltale in that set. Sadly.

      • Risingson says:

        Not at all. I still have to see a recent adventure as well written and designed as their Sam&Max, Strong Bad or Tales of Monkey Island series. Even Wadjet Eye is far from there.

        And Daedalic is always Daedalic, with their flaws included. You just have to love them for what they are.

        • Aninhumer says:

          I feel like Telltale are good at a certain kind of humour, that I don’t particularly like. Obviously humour is always subjective, and I don’t want to insult fans of their style, but personally I find all their jokes tiresome and lacking in subtlety, not to mention often being needlessly crude.
          I get the impression that style is a good fit for Sam & Max and Strongbad, but it felt entirely out of place in Monkey Island, and for me it ruined a series I was expecting to like.
          I don’t really remember much about the puzzle design in the few games I’ve actually played through, which on the one hand means there probably wasn’t anything ridiculous, but on the other hand means there weren’t any stand out puzzles.

          • wisnoskij says:

            I agree. After hearing so much praise from people I know know what they are talking about, I know that TT is obviously a very talented company. But I simply do not like what they produce, and I have given them a good try.

            W.E.: Meh. I am not a fan of them as a developer, but they have published some very awesome gems.

          • Risingson says:

            There are one thing that is incorrect and one that feels wrong in what you say. First: there is awesome design, just to name a few examples, in the third episode of Strong Bad (the music festival one), the Chariot of the Dogs one, the incredibly amazing third and fourth episodes of Tales, and many many more.

            The other that I feel wrong is that you focus on the sense of humor not talking to you. You have to let the surrealism of Telltale breathe a bit. With movies, books, even games, it is not “I would have done it this way” or “this does not talk to me in my language”, but you have to put a lot from your part to understand it, and Sam&Max games are full of subtleties about modern life, about pop culture, about our perception of things, about xenophobia, about everything. Though, again, my favourite is Strong Bad: their parody of the music festivals and what music has become in the last years is simply awesome, but other hints as their tender look at amateur home movies in the spy episode or the absurd political statements in the second one are nothing short of amazing.

            When I compare this to the teenage-like and absolutely un-intellectual other adventures, as the very flawed Gemini Rue and Resonance, you know, I embrace the Telltale games with even more love. They know what they do and they do… well, the did it perfectly well. Now they have become emo and meat for long pitchfork-like reviews with Walking Dead, but anyway.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        ?!
        Telltale = Walking Dead. Enough Said. Put them above Wadget Eye, if you like.

    • tanith says:

      In my opinion Botanicula and Machinarium were both excellent point and click adventures. I had a lot of fun with those.
      There is also hope that we may see a Syberia 3 someday.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Machinarium was fun, but also a bit different than your classic adventure. Not a lot different, but not quite sitting in the comfortable groove of the golden age. It was almost a bit Myst-y with its mostly-silent exploration and fiddling with levers, only it made a lot more sense.

        • Lemming says:

          You’re right, they are different but I think they should be applauded for that. They are messing with the genre staples and still maintaining that adventure game feel. You get the same ‘buzz’ with Machinarium and Botanacula as you do standard point and clicks, but they’ve either stripped the mechanics down to the basics (Botanacula) or supplemented them with traditional puzzle solving (Machinarium). I think that’s pretty good.

    • Hypocee says:

      Zombie Cow/Size 5.

    • Morzak says:

      I don’t know I quite liked A whispered World and A new Beginning, they weren’t perfect but they have a lot going for them (Don’t know how the localization is I’m playing them on German). King art’s A book of Unwritten Tale is really enjoyable, Pendulo’s Runaway series was very enjoyable. The Black Mirror games were pretty good.
      Didn’t have time to play the Deponia games, but they are waiting in the backlog.

      Telltale is as hit and miss as the rest, if not more.

    • kalirion says:

      Check out Ben Chandler’s freeware AGS games.

  5. Michael Fogg says:

    Watership Dumb

  6. Mr. Mister says:

    They need to start chaining puzzles together – while still maintaining multiple threads at the same time of course-…”

    I’m having a hard time trying to figure out your view on this. Considering your (or whoever’s wrote the WOT) issues with Deponia and Chaos, I acknowledge that you dislike branched and non-locally interdependant advancement and instead prefer independent linear progression, even if with multiple simultaneous instances. But it’s how can you reemphasize that multiplicity while still wanting corridors that eludes me.

    • Aninhumer says:

      I don’t think the Deponia reviews were asking for more linear puzzles, just more more direction and more incremental scope. What it does wrong is dumping you in the middle of a large map with only one rather vague goal. A better way to do things is to start with a smaller section of the map, and then incrementally expand it as you solve puzzles. This means every puzzle rewards you with new places to explore, and of course, new items to rub on things.

      • Mr. Mister says:

        It actually does that too: Act 1, yyou start on Toni’s house. Puzzles, then you can access the roof and the street too. Puzzles, now can access city centre, shop, town hall, other house. Puzzles, can access emergency station. Puzzles, mayor’s office. Puzzles, mail office.

  7. Kevin says:

    “I am a remarkably optimistic man. I’ve been reviewing adventure games since 1999, starting approximately 17 minutes after the best in the industry stopped releasing their classics. It’s fair to say I’m frequently disappointed. But I remain ever optimistic that each time this could be the one.”

    “Have I ever told you… what zee… definition of… insanity is?”

  8. Gameserg says:

    The Night of the Rabbit is the biggest game for Daedalic so far, it’s sad, but some errors and bugs made it through QA. They will be taken care of and most of them are already addressed in the nearest patch that’s being prepared.

  9. Mr Coot says:

    I really want to embrace Daedelic, but I can’t bring myself to get thru The Whispered World. Once I do, I’ll try some more of their titles. o.O They should join forces with KING Art (The Book of Unwritten Tales) – another absolutely gorgeous and charming point and click adventure, but also one that could do with a bit more attention to editting and flow. KING Art are a bit ahead of Daedelic for me in playability and captivation – wish both those studios the best because there is the potential for greatness there.

    • AlienMind says:

      I have not played a single KING ART Adventure which had unlikeable characters and illogical puzzles. I hope they do not join with Daedalic.

  10. botonjim says:

    I loved both Deponias precisely because they dared to let me loose in a world comprised of more than 3 locations at a time and fill my inventory with more than a couple of items to play with. Just like in the old days. Plus, in my experience, most if not all of the puzzles made perfect sense. If this is similar (only even larger!) I expect to enjoy it a lot.

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