I’m back to talk more about Night in the Woods. Here is part one. This time, I want to focus a bit more on the meta and on my third playthrough. Warning, there will be spoilers. I’ll try to keep it story-spoiler-free as much as I can, but I really need to get into it, which I can’t without giving some stuff away.
First, I need to talk about Mae Borowski, the main character. She’s a young (20), angry and scared black cat who tends to blurt out embarrassing or mean things when she feels threatened–which is often. She’s snarky and sassy the rest of the time, and sometimes, she’s both. She’s dropped out of college and returned to the small town in which she was born–Possum Springs. In the beginning, she’s portrayed as a bratty but endearing young woman who’s aimless and doesn’t have any purpose in life. She’s lucky she has a home to return to, and she sleeps away the day in the attic of her parents’ home–that they may not own for much longer, but more on that in a bit.
Normally, she’s the kind of character I wouldn’t like at all. But, there’s something about her that spoke to me. Probably because I *was* her when I was that age, though with a bit more social grace. I hated college and felt like an alien. I had trouble fitting in, and if I thought dropping out was a possibility, I would have heavily considered it. I only went to college because it was expected of me, and I still wish I had taken a year off after I had finished high school. For Mae, there is the added pressure of being the first Borowski to go to college, as her mom is quick to point out in the middle of a fight they have.
There is so much pathos in this game. It’s set in a dying Rust Belt town, and the depression surrounding the town is almost another character. It’s in every scene of the game, and it’s a constant reminder that many of the small towns in America are dying out. The only pizza place in town closes a few days after Mae returns home. There’s a character, Danny, who, while hilarious, is representative of the lack of livability in some of these towns. He can’t hold a job to save his life, and while some of it is his attitude, more of it is because the jobs simply aren’t there. There are the two NPCs who stand next to a bar all day long, and they only talk about one thing–The Smelters, who are the local sportsball team, I’m assuming. Then, one of the characters get a job in another city, and the two have to say goodbye. It’s sad, even though you don’t know anything else about them.
OK. Let’s talk about the gameplay, as it were. This is one of the few things I didn’t like in this game. One, it feels artificial in what is mostly an animated visual novel (and I say this as a compliment, though I normally don’t like visual novels), and it felt as if it was added to pad the game. After Mae makes an ass of herself at a game (in front of her ex, no less!), she starts to have nightmares/weird dreams that are gorgeous-looking and sounding (as is the whole game), but feels very game-y. I didn’t mind doing it once, but by the fourth or fifth time, I was just impatient to get through it. It doesn’t help that I have a terrible sense of space, so I couldn’t find where I needed to be very quickly.