Everyone agrees that Night in the Woods is a good game. It’s pleasant and charming and weird in all the right measure. What other game has you smashing fluorescent lights in one scene and feeding baby rats in another? But more importantly, this is a game that advances along the quality spectrum the more you relate to it, and for me, Night in the Woods did exactly that.
Following cat-girl Mae, her return home is marked with reunion, disappointment, and self-loathing. She dropped out of college and moved back in with her odd but loving parents and proceeds to slide into early adulthood while clawing back at what she remembers of her youth. Some of it is happy, a lot of it is sad, but all of it is immense.
It manages to capture just about everything I’ve emotionally collided headfirst into, especially having just turned 30 years old while the majority of my other friends and coworkers are thriving in their 28s and 27s. The Richard Scarry aesthetic brings back vivid memories of my childhood, throwing me back into my bright lime green beanbag chair and wondering who exactly tailors a suit for a fox. This is the game’s point of ingress: Mae’s home is my home.
2017, as fucking awful of a year as it has been, was also marked by a similarly remarkable amount of reunion and recollection. For all the Greggs and Beas and Anguses (Angusi?) in Mae’s new/old life, I had my own Seans and Alexes and more. Reminiscing the hours away, talking about the setting sun in our memories with a romanticism that rivals the American Dream, it was quietly the best thing either Mae or myself could have hoped for.
But that’s not the point of living, as it isn’t the point of Night in the Woods. Mae’s revelatory return is a journey beset on all sides by anxiety. Her friends are moving forward with their lives, an abandonment tantamount to betrayal in her perfectly selfish, myopic view. A formerly endless, boundless joie de vivre has turned rotten, decaying into a plague of apathetic depression.
It is a monster. But it is also a monster bolstered by your own entangled, miserable worry of the monster. In between the moments of rabidly grabbing and pulling at the past while stiff-arming the future, Mae is making new treasured times. Guilt-ridden times at the cost of alienating and abandoning different groups of friends while doting on others, sure, but treasured all the same.
This is a small, strange, and charming little game that is gigantic in its ambition. What is, after all, bigger than growing up? Than simply living? Not a whole lot, and that’s why Night in the Woods is our number ten game of the year.