Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Night in the Woods

I don’t play many video games but when I do awards

It’s nearing the end of the year, and you know what that means. Countless top ten lists, best ofs, and other navel-gazing articles/videos. I did my own list last year citing my favorite games of the year, and I’m doing the same this year as well. While I enjoy me a good ‘best of’ list, I like to do things differently. I don’t think there’s an objective best, anyway, so I’m just going to list my personal favorites. As to the title of this post, it’s true. I don’t play many games, but when I do, I play the hell out of them.

The game I was reluctant to play, even though theoretically it was tailor-made for me (maybe because), and it ended up capturing my heart

Night in the Woods

When I first heard about this game early in 2017 when it was released by Infinite Fall, I immediately thought it was made for me. Indie game with a female black cat protagonist? Hells, yeah! Plus, the design is gorgeous, and it seemed like it was narrative-driven. It should be right up my alley–which was why I hesitated in playing it. Plus, it was nearly twenty bucks, and I’m really cheap when it comes to games. I like to pay less than fifteen bucks for a game (which means buying during steep sales most of the time), though I’ve loosened up on that recently.

When I finally bought it and started it up, I was immediately stumped by one of the earliest ‘gameplay’ moments. I put that in quotes because it fit the definition but barely, and it was embarrassingly easy in retrospect to figure out–if you play plenty of games. Once I got past that, however, I was swept up in the game and the protagonist, Mae. She is the aforementioned female black cat, and she captivated me in a way no protagonist ever has. A young college dropout who was consumed by anxiety, depression, and sarcasm, she was me. It was later revealed that she’s bisexual, and I felt connected to her even more strongly than I had before. Add to that her propensity towards inertia and sticking her foot in her mouth by excitably blurting out awkward truths, and I became increasingly protective of her.

I played through the game three times and still didn’t see everything in it. I only played it more than once because I watched Campster’s (Errant Signal) video on it, and I noticed things in his video I hadn’t seen in my playthrough. In addition, he said the game benefited from a second playthrough, and he was right. It was on the third playthrough that I fell in love with the game.

The art direction is fantastic, and I empathized with each of the four main characters: Mae, Bea, Gregg (GREGG RULZ OK), and Angus. Whenever I spent a significant amount of time with any of them, I came to care about them even more. The overarching story/mystery is underwhelming, but by the end of my third playthrough, I accepted it as a metaphor for what is happening in the dying Rust Belt town rather than anything literal.

I won’t gush about how lovely certain moments were or how I legit cried at the poignancy of some of the interactions. I’ve written three posts on my emotional connection to the game, and I still don’t think I managed to convey how much it means to me. It might seem ridiculous to become attached to an animated cat-girl who’s sullen, mentally ill, and a brat from time to time, but Mae wormed her way into my heart, and I’m grateful for it. I’m probably going to do a fourth playthrough before too long because there are a few things I know I haven’t seen. If there is one game that I played this year that I would recommend with all my heart, it is this one.


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Walking away from the First Flame

I heard The Pina Colada Song on my way home from Cubs today, and it put me in the mood…to play more Dark Souls! It’s my Dark Souls fight song, and I’ve heard it twice in the past week. That must mean something, right? I recently learned that there is a second ending to Dark Souls II. Rather, to Scholar of the First Sin, which is the remake/update of DS II because DS fans were so upset with the vanilla sequel. It’s pretty cool that there are still things I don’t know about the games even though I’ve played the hell out of them, much like when I found a mini-area I had never seen before in DS II, but I doubt there’s anything big I’ve missed. Then again, I missed the second ending, so who knows what else I’ve missed? I think it’s because DS II is the least-talked-about game in the series. I haven’t played the vanilla version of this game, so I can’t comment on that. I have let it be known that I think SotFS is a really good game, but it’s not a great DS game. Anyway, the biggest difference is

*SPOILERS*

There is a character, Aldia, who is the brother of King Vendrick. He’s in the vanilla game, and you have to go to his keep for reasons. However, you never get to see him, and he’s more of an urban legend than anything else. FromSoft decided to change it up for SotFS. I mean, hell, even the name is in reference to Aldia, so it’s the first hint that he’s going to feature more prominently in the remake.

In the second half of the game, he shows up at bonfires to talk to you. He gets increasingly smaller every time he appears (which is three), and he’s not human. I can’t describe what he is, exactly, but he loves the sound of his own voice. Then, you have to do things in a certain order (and I will admit I knew this before going into the end game) in order to have a certain thing happen. Does that sound deliberately vague? Well, it is.

In the vanilla game, there is an area called the Throne of Want. You walk forever to get there, and it’s the boss arena for two different bosses. First, Throne Watcher and Throne Defender (a duo), and then the final boss, Nashandra–the queen. You can also kill King Vendrick at some point, but it’s optional (and a HUGE pain in the ass). In order to have Nashandra show up, though, you need something called the Giant’s Kinship, which you can only get from defeating the Giant Lord in a memory. You cannot access the memories without the Ashen Mist Heart, which you need from the Ancient Dragon in the Dragon Shrine–which you can only access after beating the Guardian Dragon in Aldia’s Keep. Yes, I am spoiling the whole end game, but it is under a spoiler tag, and the game is four years old, so I think I can get away with it.


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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.  Continue Reading

Night in the Woods, part two: Getting under my skin

i'll just lie here, thanks!
Aunt Mall Cop was NOT amused by my antics.

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 party (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.

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Night in the Woods, part one: A first playthrough

chillin' with my homies!
GREGG RULZ OK

Over a year ago, I heard of an indie game called, Night in the Woods, and I didn’t know much about it except it starred a black girl cat who had a sassy attitude, kinda like me. I watched a Let’s Play of the first hour, then I stopped because I knew I’d be playing it one day. I liked the snarky tone of the game, plus there’s a mystery involved, and it seemed like it would be right up my alley. I kept putting it off, however, as I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Then, a few weeks ago, it was on sale on Steam, and I was between games, so I bought it.

I started playing, and I was immediately frustrated with the first gaming section. I’m playing as Mae Borowski, the aforementioned cat, who’s 20 and dropped out of college. She’s on her way back home and walking through the woods to get there. I explored the area and was immediately stuck. I couldn’t go anywhere, so I knew I had to do something on screen in order to progress. The problem is, there wasn’t anything other than a creaky log. In watching playthroughs after finishing the game, the streamers all immediately understood what they had to do, but I didn’t. You probably know what it is just by reading what I wrote. I had to keep jumping on the log until it broke, and then it pushed up other logs (or something) so I could make progress.

I will say, my complaint about my first playthrough* was all the game parts. The platforming bits. The DDR mini-game (I keep calling it that, but it’s more like Guitar Band or Rock Hero**). I was spectacularly terrible at the latter, so much so, I completely electrocuted the characters for Pumpkin Head Guy. Anyway, the parts I like were wandering around town and talking to different characters. Which, thankfully, is roughly eighty percent of the game.

I love Mae unabashedly, even when I want to shake her for being mean/embarrassing/awkward. I can empathize with her to an uncomfortable degree. Even before knowing why she dropped out of college, I felt a kinship with her. She’s intelligent, but not always comfortable with other people. She’s awkward, fat (in her own eyes), and has a low self-esteem. She’s also warm and caring, but she doesn’t always know how to express it properly.

She can also climb across power lines, but I didn’t fully realize that until my second playthrough. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The first night, we run into her aunt who appears to be the only cop in Possum Springs. Mae calls her Aunt Mall Cop, but her real name is Molly. Then, we meet pops who is momentarily flummoxed by Mae’s arrival (her parents thought it was going to be the next night), but quickly recovers. Then, it’s bedtime, or in my case, practice the bass time. Man, I sucked at that so bad. I got better with practice, but I’ve never played those kind of games and my reactions are slow, so it’s frustrating for me. Fortunately, there are only two or three times you have to do it in game (two if you suck really bad at it, three if you don’t).

The rest of the characters felt immediately relatable. Gregg is her hyperactive best friend who is into doing crimes. He’s a fox, and it’s implied that he’s bipolar, but it’s never explicitly stated. He’s living with his boyfriend, a big, gentle geeky bear named Angus.  The drummer of the group (“It’s a laptop, Bea.” “It sure is, Mae. It sure is.”) is a weary, worn-down alligator named Bea. She’s goth from head to toe, wearing all black, an ankh, and smoking a fake cigarette all the time inside (and sometimes outside, I think, alternating with a real one).

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Sometimes, real life gets in the way

I’ve been obsessed with a game called Night in the Woods for the past week or so.  I’ve had my eye on it ever since it came out because it sounded like it could be my jam. The main character is a black girl cat who dropped out of college and returned to her Rust Belt small town after a year-and-a-half, and everything is dying. That’s all I knew about it before buying it because I knew I was going to play it one day, and I try to keep myself spoiler-free before playing a game that is narrative-rich. It was on sale during the last Steam sale for $13.99, and I was between games, so I decided to buy it.

I have since played it through twice (and have started a third playthrough), and I have many thoughts about it. Unfortunately, real life has gotten in the way, so I will have to table it until next week. For now, enjoy RockLeeSmile playing his way through it. I will caution that if you want to play it, you should do so without reading anything about it or watching any playthroughs.

Here are a few screencaps to wet your whistle. Enjoy.