Super duper late reply, but just to say thanks! It wasn’t something I’d thought about when playing so I enjoyed the points you raise
It’s one of my favorite games, probably the most human feeling game I’ve ever played, despite no actual humans being in the game.
Three moments from Night in the Woods stood out to me more than anything else:
The empty mall. My hometown has multiple empty malls, but one Empty Mall stands above the rest - I remember coming back from grad school, meeting up with my brother (who was in town coincidentally) and going to see Scott Pilgrim at the cheap theater in the Empty Mall. It was the first time I’d been to the Empty Mall since it made the jump from Failing Mall, and the gut punch was palpable. It felt like a tomb, and it was so deeply weird to be in a deserted place that I’d spent so much time hanging out in back when it wasn’t so dead. We were the only two people in the theater - we literally had to find the ticket salesperson to buy our tickets to see the movie. Dead as dead.
Mae talking to her reflection before getting Too Drunk at the party was the realest depiction of social anxiety I’ve ever gone through, and I had to straight up take a walk afterwards because man, I go through that every time I leave the house, it feels like. That was the moment I realized this whole game was going to hit me in ways games do not hit.
Mae’s description of the yawning emptiness that hit after she finished her favorite video game. I have felt that same emptiness, and boy having it described in such heartbreaking detail made me kind of a mess for a bit!
There’s also basically every scene between Mae’s interactions with her mom, reminding me of the various deeply uncomfortable discussions I had as a directionless 20something deep in debt and unable to find any stable work. But also the uncertainty of how to relate to your parents after you’ve been gone and come back without planning to (or wanting to), and trying to relate to one another as Fellow Adults while still dodging questions about what you plan to do or how long you’ll be staying. And that deep, deep discomfort that comes from feeling like a nusiance sponging off your parents, but also beeing deeply disinclined to do anything about it because it feels safe and familiar.
Yeah, this game made me feel stuff. It’s very, very good.
I am totally in the minority here but I really did not like this game which is odd to say cause I agree with a lot of what you guys have said. Parts definitely shined and the ending of the game was one of the best I’ve experienced: The trippy twist at the end blew my mind and Mae’s final speech was so beautifully vulnerable that I, too, got emotional over it. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression it was moving for me. But as a whole the game didn’t sit well with me. And it’s not particularly enjoyable to play IMO. Here are some of my thoughts:
Every character but Mae. Bea was my favorite. She’s grungy-looking but avoids becoming a cliché by having several moments of vulnerability—opening up to you or intentionally keeping you at a distance.
gorgeous cartoon art style
Mae’s laptop as an objectives list, a mini game, and more
The rhythm games!
some of the (lovely) details such as the way Mae’s thoughts gets “translated” into speech when she’s drunk, brilliant!
The pacing: we find an arm outside the diner early in the game and then nothing creepy or weird happens for a few hours
Mae, so damn much. I found her dialogue to be a bit cringy. She’s also just so immature, entitled, snobby, and boring. Everyone else has things going on and Mae is just drifting through life being a jerk. Reminds me of Holden Caulfield (and I really don’t like Catcher in the Rye. Maybe this is just a taste thing? but Idk because I legitimately think both are poorly done).
The repetitive tasks/visuals: How many times can I visit the same town and talk to the same people. Perhaps this is meant to reflect the mundane life in this town but God does it make for a boring gaming experience.
Some of the mini-games/sequences: such as the stabbing one (what the hell?) and the shoplifting ones (also that’s NOT how you shoplift, just saying you wouldn’t go as slowly as possible…).
- The portrayal of mental illness: this one is tough because everyone experiences it differently but I can’t help but have some of these cliches not sit with me right: Mae’s illness results in her physically assaulting someone and later becoming incapable of functioning (which is why she leaves college). These can totally happen to people but with mental illness being so under represented I would’ve preferred to see something more nuanced (since mental illness is very common) from a character that’s more empathetic. By the end we are made to feel empathy/sympathy for Mae but it’s so last minute that it feels like it’s presented as an answer to all her past behavior which I think becomes an oversimplification.
I will say though that I’ve now written 3 posts on this game so I would put it into the “bad games worth playing category,” esp. if you’re into writing or talking about games often/actively. There is A LOT to think about when it comes to NITW.
Thats the point though, innit? Most of the game is her coming to this realization and attempting to temper it.
I know what you mean though, she can be a huge jerk and she definitely got on my nerves more than once, and I think a lot of that is because she is basically still a teenager who hasn’t had to face many difficult life choices like most of the other characters have.
I actually liked everything you disliked about the game… I like that Mae is in a lot of ways a bad person. I like that mental illness in this game isn’t always pretty. I like going through and talking to everyone in town. I like getting in horrifying knife fights with my friend Gregg who rules ok.
I do think this game is very focused on a subject and type of person in a way that isn’t going to work for everyone. But I personally prefer this the shallowness of a lot of popular story based games
Yeah but all the other characters are her peers, approx. the same age as her. I guess that’s what bugs me about Mae and I’m sure part of that is because I’m in my early 20’s myself. I look at Mae like pick up your sticks! Like I said, I do get that Mae isn’t suppose to be likable necessarily but she’s a very flat character to me (until the very end). In that sense I actually find Mae lacking depth @VulpesAbsurda. Gregg and Bea, for example, are both flawed in much more intriguing ways. Bea is a cold detached asshole but she does still care, and shows that, albeit begrudgingly. And for fun she drives far out and literally pretend she’s someone she’s not. And it’s like “oh fuck… this is a real person” meanwhile Mae (in that same scene) goes
"you never asked why I left college"
Bea: "yes I have, multiple times"
maybe that’s suppose to be a cute quirky example of Mae’s self-centeredness but it just comes off as cheap writing to me. Everyone else has interesting, dynamic, human conflicts and Mae is this privileged, oblivious jerk. For me, Mae is the vehicle to much more interesting stories which would be fine if she wasn’t so boring/annoying to play as.
COMPLETE SIDENOTE: I really vibe with the first song they play and have listened to it on YouTube, for fun, several times.
Fwiw, I largely agree with your points here, and I overall was majorly disappointed by this game. I wrote about it more a while back on another thread (“Games everyone loves that you don’t”, I think). But yeah, basically the core ideas at work in NITW are interesting and respectable, but as an whole gaming experience I did not enjoy myself nor did I find any of it engaging enough to continue to completion. It’s still sitting on my hard drive waiting to be finished. I’m just not sure when I’ll ever be compelled to do so.
I sorta felt a weird feeling of envy of Mae and everybody living in Possum Springs. It’s a bit hard to explain, but as somebody who grew up in the suburbs without a lot of friends I didn’t exactly live in a town full of history and culture where everybody knows pretty much everybody. Where I grew up is very sterile, very corporate, and has no local culture beyond “Hey, there was probably a Civil War battle around here”. There are no “the Dudes” type of local landmark of “historical note”. When I lived in NYC I felt more connected to strangers on the subway than I did anybody back home.
Whenever I hear about people who grew up in a hard area, or with tough situations, I can’t help but feel like they’re more human and real than me. I feel that way about Possum Springs, that these characters who are both fictional and animals are more real than I could be or my town could be. I know I’m thinking too much about it, but I can’t help but feel a sort of envious nostalgia for something I’ve never experienced.
I’m still not sure where I land on how I feel about this game. I grew up in the rust belt and have actually met friends of Scott Benson in the small town way which would fit thematically with this game. The aesthetic and the general mood of the people in this game felt familiar to me in ways I’ve never seen represented in games. There were moments where my eyes were wide because I’ve never read game dialogue about being financially trapped in a place but also staying there by choice because of familial reasons. But then this game also had moments where I fell asleep traversing the town.
I see a lot of people complain about Mae as a main character. Let’s put it this way, I don’t like Mae for all the same reasons I don’t like Holden Caulfield, but I can appreciate those reasons for how they fit into the super-narrative. The handful of precious moments felt earned. Say what you will about the cosmic horror that makes it’s way into the third act, but then again we’re talking about a game where you play as an anthropomorphic cat and the first character you meet is essentially a god stand in represented as an anthropomorphic bird janitor.
Depending on how far you are I suggest seeing it through because the ending is honestly so good but yeah I definitely had to force myself through it. Like, if you went through the dullest parts you might as well get the big reveal.
Good tip. It’s definitely still on my hard drive, so I’ll get around to finishing it one of these days (probably). I’m just not sure if I have made it through all of the dull parts (or all of the dream sequences for that matter—I reeeally hate those), so I’m not totally eager to find out. Especially because, if I remember correctly, you can only save after completing a full day of activities. Add that to the reasons why I’m not too fond of NITW. But yeah, I’m going to give it a shot one of these days.
Reviving this thread cause I just started playing and “enjoying” it. Yeah this isn’t about fun but about remembering about your own past or at least a past of someone you know. Part of Mae’s trouble are stuff I went through besides the dropping out of college part and bettering myself a lot sooner.
I think this is the point of Mae’s characterization though. Cut short though it was, she got to enjoy an extended adolescence by going off to college where she basically gets to not grow up whereas all her peers had to buckle down and start dealing with adulthood right out of high school.
Finished this recently. Brings up a lot of negative emotions, which I’d say are almost universal to the human condition unless you completely give up on any kind of introspection.
Feeling like a failure, seeing friendships change and even die as time goes on, not able to articulate what’s bothering you, etc
Personally, it was a painful process, but, I liked it.
Anyway I can see why this resonated with so many people last year.
Love the design and the music. As mentioned in this thread, the pacing was very slow and the game gets repetitive when you go from day to day.
I think some people got a different read on why Mae acts the way she does then I did. I don’t see it as her just not maturing as quick as her friends but rather she acts like this because she has to. She acts like a jerk and treats everything like a joke because she needs to, because if she didn’t she wouldn’t survive. Strong emotions trigger Mae’s dissociative disorder so the only way she can function is if she just blocks it out. Mae didn’t forget Bae’s mother died, she actively suppressed it.
I love the ways that Alternate History Western PA is still recognizable as itself despite having some very universal depictions of Rust Belt life.
This is a really interesting read and I think it contextualizes Mae’s behavior in a humanizing way. I’m unsure how explicit this is in the game though. I feel conflicted about Mae, both because I found her story and aimlessness surprising and moving, but also sympathize with the critics who find the way the game justifies her behavior troubling. I’m not sure how to bridge that gap, or even if there is a way too, but I do think a perspective that leans toward compassion is worth hearing out.
I want to replay this game in the autumn (though I won’t be looking forward to thisw repetitive dream sequences so much). As someone who takes long, functionless walks around his small town quite often, this game resonated so much (as well as for other reasons obviously).
I seem to be one of few people who didn’t despise Mae. I’ve never quite understood “unlikeable characters” as a criticism, and I thought it was great to see a game character with realistic flaws and the odd bit of arsehole-ish behaviour.
Funny, Mae’s ending speech left a smaller impression on me than most folks it seems, which is weird because I did enjoy her quite a bit as a sympathetic but not wholly likable protagonist.
What really stuck with me about the ending was the speech her dad gave, despite being incredibly unsubtle. Of course I finished shortly after getting laid off so that might be why his “WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE” spiel resonated.