Underneath my yellow skin

Night in the Woods, part three: Putting it all together

free your mind, mallard.
Mallard! What have they done to you?

Hello. Welcome to the third and hopefully the last post on Night in the Woods. Not because I’m tired of talking about it because I am most emphatically not, but because I know I sound like I’m obsessed–which, to be fair, I am. Anyhoo, here’s part two. OK. Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the third playthrough. Needless to say, there are going to be spoilers, and while I’ll try to note the more egregious ones, just be forewarned that I can’t talk about my third playthrough without revealing some spoilers in general.

After I finished the second playthrough, I immediately started the third. I was in a groove, and I knew there was still things I hadn’t discovered. Also, there are things I saw at the end of my second playthrough (while watching a streamer play), and I didn’t have enough days to do the whole quest. The fact that this quest exists at all is a marvel. As I was walking on the wires the second playthrough, I found a window I could open. I did that, and I went inside. There was a big float duck named Mallard bolted down, and I found a hole inside him. In the hole were two rats. Mae notes that they look hungry, and I decided I needed to find them cheese. I couldn’t find any cheese and it was only when

*spoilers*

I watched BaerTaffy steal the pretzel from the pretzel/pierogi vendor in the underground tunnel, and I felt like a complete idiot. I knew it was there, and I knew the paw icon popped up when I passed by the pretzels, and Mae was chastised by the vendor for stealing before. I should have put together the whole thing, but I didn’t. I stole a pretzel and brought it back up to my babies. Unfortunately, I did not have enough days to finish it, so I made sure to do it during the third playthrough as soon as I could–which is the first day, I think.

I fed them faithfully every day and each day there was one more, and then after four days (I think), they were gone. They were free. The coolest thing is once they left, I saw them all around the city. They weren’t there before, which is a neat little touch. also, in the same place as Mallard, there was a door to the bottom right that would not open throughout my entire first and second playthrough. It’s a door that you could easily miss, and even if you found it, you probably wouldn’t try to open it more than a few times. That’s the brilliance of this game, but also the frustrating thing. You need to check everything every day, and while the payoff is so damn fulfilling when it happens, it’s few and far between. 

In this case, that new room has an intrigue of its own. Someone is living there, and Mae muses about staying in the closet until the person returns. I don’t know if you can actually do that a la Dark Souls because I didn’t wait long. If I do another playthrough, I’m going to look up that room. After being able to explore it a few times, it was suddenly locked again. I don’t know why, and I’ll probably look it up if I do another playthrough.

Anyway, I thought I was done with that questline, but then at the very end of the game, I was able to go into the abandoned Donkey Mart (which I hadn’t been able to for the entire game except once to do crimes with Gregg), and there were my baby rats milling all over the place. There is a touching cut scene (using the term loosely) with Mae just sitting in the window, her babies running around her. It’s quiet and lovely, and what a payoff for such a seemingly goofy questline.

This whole thing is optional. You can do the entire game and never even see Mallard, let alone feed the rats or get the late-game scene in the Food Donkey. It’s amazing to me that all these scenes are tucked away, waiting patiently for you to find them, but you will never know if you’ve missed them because the game is pretty seamless no matter how much or little you choose to do.

*unspoilered*

I really thought I had been thorough the first time through the game, but I saw maybe sixty percent of what was actually there. Second playthrough, the same thing. I thought, surely I had seen everything there was to see, but I still only had like half of the achievements. Granted, some of them are mutually exclusive, but still. I probably only saw another twenty percent of the game in that second playthrough. Third playthrough, fifteen percent. I’m sure there’s more that I haven’t found yet, so I’m leaving five percent unseen. I’m pretty sure it’s not more than that, but I can’t be positive.

eff the cops!
Jaunting about town.

On my third playthrough, I was determined to wring every ounce of content from the game I possibly could. That sounds dry, but I’m saying it flippantly when in reality, I couldn’t get enough of these characters and their stories. I still can’t. I’m pretty sure I’m going to do another playthrough to tie off the loose ends, and I’m thrilled to get the chance to hang out with them again. Anyway, during the third playthrough, I found other NPCs and scenes with existent NPCs that I hadn’t previously unlocked. I found two of them by picking up on a hint given by Gregg that I hadn’t previously paid attention to, and it was a fascinating side quest.

*SPOILERS*

I found another NPC who was the cousin of someone in town. Because of the hint mentioned in the last paragraph, I found a musician in a locked-away section. I found another musician across town from spotting him in Baer’s playthrough. I immediately thought of my dreams when I found the two musicians, and I thought I’d have to find two more, but I didn’t find them. It doesn’t mean they’re not there, but I’m pretty sure I would have found them if they were. What they do give me, however, is insight into my dreams, which is very satisfying. Hooking up the two musicians (professionally) made me smile.

I also found a few other NPCs I hadn’t seen before, but those were one-offs. The scenes I unlocked with NPCs I had found in my first playthrough that deepened my relationships with them is the best part of the third playthrough. One such character is Lori M., a soon-to-be fifteen-year-old mouse girl who is obsessed with horror movies and gore. She’s awkward and rebellious, and Mae first meets her next to a statue in town. During my first playthrough, I thought she was the kid who had something really bad happen to her because I didn’t see her for the rest of the game, but, no, she was just hanging out in a different place.

Once I found her, I made sure to visit her every day. Mae feels protective of her and acts as a mentor. In my mind, it was a good thing that Mae could take care of someone else and not just rats*, and once their friendship deepens, Lori invites Mae to go to the tracks with her. After this happens twice, Mae invites Lori to Thanksgiving dinner, and after hyperventilating, Lori declines, but invites Mae to chill with her and her sister. Mae accepts. It’s such a sweet and touching moment, and the emotional payoff is off-the-charts. Lori becomes like a little sister to Mae, and it’s mind-blowing to me that I missed the whole damn thing the first time I played the game.

The second character I grew more fond of during my third playthrough was Germ Warfare (Jeremy Warton). I’ve talked about him before, but I’ll briefly summarize. In my first playthrough, he was merely this weirdo crow who hangs out with Gregg sometimes and listens to the gang do band practice. I thought he was quirky and funny, but that was it. Oh, and he saves our life at the end. Can’t forget about that. During my second playthrough, I realized I could go past the Clik Clak (to the left) at a certain point, and I ran into Germ Warfare waaaay to the left side. During my second playthrough, he introduces me to several crusties, the teen train-hoppers who’ve mostly been kicked out of their homes. I also find out that he was followed by a stranger once, and in light of the bigger mystery, it’s a chilling bit of knowledge to have.

In the third playthrough, after talking to Germ every day, he invites me to hang out. Now, he’d done that before, but it was only to stand in the parking lot. Here’s a tip in this game. If a character who isn’t one of your friends asks you to hang out, then, yeah, hang out. It won’t cost you the day, and it’ll add layers to what you already know about the person. Anyway, I think I mentioned in an earlier post that there’s a bridge to the far right of the screen that you can walk over and sit on, but you can’t really do anything else to it during the game. Well, if you accept the chance to hang out with Germ, you can go under the bridge. You meet his possum named Rabies, and it’s a really funny scene. You can never jump off the bridge again, which is really interesting.

a dying town.
Possum Springs. A character in its own right.

Then, if you keep talking to him, one day he’ll ask you to dinner. I’m pretty sure he’s not trying to hit on Mae, though I thought it for half a second, and of course I wanted to have dinner at Germ’s house! Are you kidding me? He gives Mae a cryptic warning about his gramma, and it’s becomes clear pretty quickly. She’s a psychic, and she upsets Mae with what she says. When Mae tries to tell Germ, he insists not to hear anything about it. Then, they jump on a trampoline.

The brilliant part is that if you don’t do this scene, there are references to Germ’s house at other times of the game, and Gregg will casually mention something about Germ’s future-telling abilities, but it won’t really resonate unless you unlock this scene. In the same way that with another side quest that can intertwine with this one. In your house, there is a room on the middle floor that is blocked with boxes. Mae says her dad put them there, and he should move them. If you talk to him every night, eventually, Mae will ask him to move the boxes. He counters by asking what she’s done for him. If you watch TV with him for a few nights in a row, he agrees to move the boxes. There’s a safe, and you have to find the code elsewhere. Once you open the safe, there’s a tooth. A tooth? That’s it? Yes.

Now. You can go through the rest of the game with just that tooth and not know what the fuck it means. Later in the game, when you’re at the library researching ghosts on the microfiche, there’s an article about the miners prying the teeth out of their boss’s mouth with a pair of pliers. Each miner kept a tooth, and they passed them on to other people. Some secreted the teeth away only to be found by others on their passing. This is meant to spur you to think, “Aha! My tooth is part of this.” Especially if you talk to Miss Rosa in the tunnel/trolley-way and get the story of your grandfather being a rabble-rouser back in the day. If you do these two things then talk to your dad at the very end of the game, you get a scene about him saying the Ham Panther needs a union. You give him the tooth, and you say they do need a union and tell him the story behind the tooth. Without the tooth, you don’t get any of that. How much dialogue you gets depends on how many conversations you have with other people. How does this tie in with Germ Warfare? If you unlock the house scene, his uncle will come talk to you as you’re trampolining. He talks about how your dad needs to form a union at the Ham Panther (or something similar). When you have the end scene with your dad, you mention Germ’s uncle when talking about forming a union.

*UNSPOILERED*

Now remember, NONE of this is necessary to finishing the game. None! It’s incredible to me that you have so much control over what you see and experience in this game. I’ve heard you can do the game in eight hours or so, but my first playthrough was roughly fourteen-fifteen hours. I’ve put in thirty-three hours in total, and that includes three playthroughs and the two side games. I would say I put in two hours tops for the side games combined, so I’ve put in around thirty-one hours into the main game.

This game has affected me in a way that few games have. It’s funny. If you had asked me after my first playthrough what my snap review of the game would have been, I would have said, “I liked it quite a bit, but there are many parts I didn’t like, either.” Numerically, I would have given it a 7.5 out of 10. After my second playthrough, I would have said, “Wow. There’s so much more than I thought. The negatives aren’t as important, and it’s only better with a second playthrough.” Numerical value: 8.25 out of 10. After the third playthrough, I would have said, “I love this game. I don’t even care about the negatives. What an amazing game. Incredible.” Number: 9.25 out of 10. The negatives are still very much there, but I just didn’t care by the third playthrough. It helped that I was much better at the gaming sections, which, ironically, were my least-favorite parts.

I really appreciate how the game deals with mental health issues. I’ve touched on it before, and here’s a video by PushingUpRoses addressing those issues. I don’t agree with all her assessments (I don’t think Mae is bipolar), but we’re mostly in accord.

The mystery is still take-it-or-leave-it, but it doesn’t matter. I grew to deeply love these characters, and I wanted to spend more time with them. I cared about their lives and what would happen to them in the future. I want Lori to grow up and be a famous director of horror movies, eating pizza and watching Italian gore movies whenever she wants. I want Germ Warfare to keep on being thoroughly himself, not ever changing to please anyone. I want Bea to be able to go to college, whether it’s in the real world or online, and to get the life she so richly deserves. I want Gregg and Angus to move to Bright Harbor and live in a shitty apartment, but to be surrounded by like-minded, supportive people who are diverse, queer, and creative.  And Mae. Oh, Mae. I want Mae to deal with her mental health issues, to find the passion that will drive her, and to fucking change the world one power line at a time.

 

 

 

 

*Rats as in animal rats. Lori is a person-like character, even though she’s a mouse. It sounds confusing, but it isn’t, really.

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