The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 13th

RPS-calendar-13th

Many of us go home to spend time with our families during the Christmas period. These are good times. Nothing awkward or melancholy will happen.

It’s Night in the Woods!

John: I’m very excited to see what’s coming in this month’s Director’s Cut of Night In The Woods. It’s because I’m wondering if one of my favourite games of 2017 might be getting a better ending.

Endings aren’t nearly as important as it’s often argued. I adored Night In The Woods in many ways. It is, one one level, one of the most extraordinary pieces of gaming writing I can remember, set in a vividly beautiful 2D world, exploring a mindset utterly different from any of my own experiences. I was transported into this disaffected space of directionless ennui and depression, unlike any of my own muddle of mental illness. I really cannot think of another game that has so effectively and affectingly had me experience someone else’s life. Although this experience isn’t without qualification.

The silly ending has no impact on any of that, really. It does rather rewrite a lot of what I thought was happening, and none of it for the better, but it doesn’t take away from any of the incredible moments along the way. The terrible fight my cat-like character Mae has with her mum, and the crazed need I felt to patch things up with her following, sticks with me months later. And the incidental, the overheard conversations, the snippets of other characters’ lives, that I pieced together into meaningful narratives as I walked by. And so, so many other things.

It took me a long while to find my way in. I struggled to like the game’s voice for the longest time. And then, the more I lived it, the more I understood it. I resented Mae’s perspective, I wanted to shake her, tell her to recognise just how much she has, to snap out of her behaviour. All horrible, terrible responses. The more time I spent with her, the more I understood her, if not empathised with her.

And I struggled with the lack of involvement for too long. For many hours, your main role is to press “next”. As I said in my review, “I would absolutely watch this TV show, but I really resent being asked to crank a handle to do so.” This begins to change.

But it all pales when I remember. When I think back to moments, conversations, late-night emotionally exhausted outbursts, and mall break-ins. I adore it as I recall it. I think that’s what matters most.

Alice: Unlike John ‘The Dad’ Walker, I empathise with Mae too much. Oh god, all too much. So I like all the colours and antics and adventures and crimes and friends as well as the oh so many regrets and so emotional gaps that are hard to look at, let alone cross. I’m definitely not onboard with that handle-cranking comment either; beyond the importance of exploring the town myself, even just getting around I was happy bouncing on cars and kicking through leaves.

What a wonderful tired town full of wonderful tired people.

Head back to the calendar to open the door to another of 2017’s best games.

15 Comments

  1. DashingDorm says:

    Crimes.

  2. leinaht says:

    GOTY forever. I live in the same city as the devs and it very much captures the feel of a Western Pennsylvania small town struggling to survive divestment. Also it’s beautiful and the music is beautiful, and my weekend will be consumed by Weird Autumn. Go Smelters!

  3. Babymech says:

    I know there’s no point in making the comparison, or trying to establish relative quality… but I get unaccountably frustrated whenever someone prefers the writing of Life is Strange over Night in the Woods. It’s hella lame.

  4. Stingy McDuck says:

    Gregg rulz ok

    I loved this game. Never before had I cared so much for characters in a video game, it only happened with cartoons. But this game made like to watch these characters and their antics, care about what X character thought of Y character. The final levels made me very nervous because of the outcome they were suggesting. I really hope the developers get the accolades they deserve.

  5. nattydee says:

    Crimes! I’ve been listening to the soundtrack a lot lately. It’s funny, I’ve totally convinced myself the last act + ending of this game don’t even exist – they add so little and depart so much from the themes the rest of the game establishes I couldn’t even be disappointed playing them the first time, just a little confused.

    Anyway I adore well-written, well-composed, pretty handle-cranking games – there’s something exquisitely calming about games in which the gameplay really just serves the writing and story (and if you get a bit tired of that, you can always go play that surprisingly deep minigame on Mae’s laptop). Can’t wait for the Director’s cut

  6. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    Glad to see NITW made it onto the calendar. This game surprised me, I hadn’t been keeping track of it and went into it blind, and I’m glad I did. For what it’s worth I don’t think the ending is as bad as most people say- spoiler warning, it ties into the theme of small-town evaporation and desperation that underpins the whole game nicely, and you can find some clues about the group in Mae’s house before they actually get revealed. It could definitely be a better ending, but it was far from the worst way to wrap up the game either.

    That said, the real magic of the game does lie in the path to the end rather than getting there. I don’t agree with the crank analogy though, there’s definitely optional stuff along the way. If you don’t go out of your way to explore you’ll definitely miss things like the rat babies in Mallard’s Tomb (and the delightful soundtrack that comes with!), or the homeless man behind the church, for example.

  7. MikoSquiz says:

    I do wish they’d done a better job of tying the story-per-se into the background and character work that forms the bulk of the game. In particular, pulling a minor variation on “maybe that stuff was all just a dream” is, I feel, the worst possible place they could’ve gone with it.

  8. malkav11 says:

    Based on the intro I was expecting this to be What Remains of Edith Finch. :p

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I played and finished WRoEF last wekkend and I’m pretty sure it’ll get a position on the advent calendar, if not GOTY, it really was that good.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Nyarly362 says:

    Such an adorable game! I also had a little going to get into the game but that came mainly from the not so nice keyboard handling (too little to do in the beginning, akward jumping for me). Then I got the steam controller and link and started playing in the evenings after dinner really relaxed in the big armchair and it was so perfect. The tone of the game and a comfy chair really go together. I ended with more or less refusing to not jumpy skip on the wires and look to discover a new star or two with the wonderful stories – and, ooh the little rats and crimes and wonderful things to discover leftrightandcentre!
    I am sad that it ended at some point but, hey, now there is the directors cut (as a backer I had very early plays of the two other games) and I am looking forward to do the Gregg-stories now as I went with Bea last time. Let this winter never end so I can have long involved evenings with this gem of a game.

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