Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods (abbreviated as NITW) is a single-player adventure game. It was developed by Infinite Fall, a studio founded by game designer Alec Holowka and animator/artist Scott Benson, and published by Finji. Secret Lab, an Australian studio, built the game's narrative engine, and are creating the mobile version of the game using their sprite compression systems.
|Night in the Woods|
Digital storefront artwork, featuring the game's iconography and cast of characters
It is a story-focused exploration game in which players control a young woman named Mae, who recently dropped out of college and has returned to her hometown to find unexpected changes. The game was funded via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, where it eventually earned over 400% of its US$50,000 funding goal.
A companion game titled Longest Night was released in December 2013 by Holowka and Benson, along with co-writer Bethany Hockenberry. In December 2014, a second supplemental game was released, titled Lost Constellation.
The game was released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, and PlayStation 4 on February 21, 2017. The Xbox One version was released on December 13, 2017, while a version for the Nintendo Switch was released on February 1, 2018. Versions for iOS are scheduled to arrive in 2019.
An extended version of the game, titled the Weird Autumn edition, was released for PC, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on December 13, 2017 and for Nintendo Switch on February 1, 2018. It features new content not seen in the original game, as well as the supplemental games. Night in the Woods received notable critical praise, mostly for its soundtrack, story, dialogue and characters.
Mae, an only child, has returned home to Possum Springs—a town populated by zoomorphic humans. Now living in her parents' attic, she discovers how much times have changed since the closing of the town's coal mines, uncovering a dark mystery that leads her into the nearby woods. She is forced to confront a horrible secret the town has hidden for decades involving not only the town's mine, but also the recent disappearance of her longtime friend Casey. Mae's friends also include Bea, a cigarette-smoking crocodile and Mae's childhood friend; Gregg, a hyperactive fox; and his boyfriend, a bear named Angus. Paste describes the themes covered as "mental illness, depression, the stagnancy of the middle and lower classes, and the slow death of small town America."
As Mae, players run, jump, and learn other mechanics that allow them to explore Possum Springs. Benson described the key actions for the player as "explore, converse, see and touch", while Holowka described their approach as "narrative-focused" rather than "gameplay-first". Players make decisions that affect the course of the story, though Benson said, "it's more like 'do you hang out with this person?' Okay, cool. That person might not know you as well by the end of the game, but this person you hung out with, you're going to get to see their storyline."
Margaret "Mae" Borowski is a 20-year-old college dropout, who relocates back to her hometown of Possum Springs, which has been struck by the closure of the coal mines and the stagnating economy. She meets up with her old friends, including gloomy but intelligent Beatrice "Bea" Santello, hyperactive anarchist troublemaker Greggory "Gregg" Lee, and Gregg's quiet, modest boyfriend Angus Delaney. Mae also learns that another one of her old friends, Casey Hartley, has mysteriously disappeared.
Mae spends several days exploring Possum Springs and spending time with her friends, but she also begins to have strange and vivid dreams. At the town's Halloween festival, Mae witnesses a teenager being kidnapped by a mysterious figure. The four friends begin working together to figure out what is going on, with Mae's mental health slowly deteriorating with every one of her dreams. After intensive searching, the four stumble across a strange group of cloaked figures in the woods, who chase after them; Mae ends up falling and lapses into a coma.
Mae eventually wakes up and returns to her friends, and she reveals that the reason she dropped out was due to her increasing dissociation from people and the world (it is implied that Mae suffers from some sort of depersonalization disorder), seeing everything as merely shapes. Mae's journal, in which she draws pictures for each major event in the game, was given to her by a doctor to write down her emotions after she bludgeoned a student with a softball bat six years ago as a result of a dissociative episode. Due to this incident, the townsfolk became wary of Mae and caused a financial and emotional strain in her family. As her dissociation worsened at college, Mae mustered up the strength to leave and return home, hoping that being back in Possum Springs would help her return to normal.
Still wounded, Mae decides to venture out into the woods alone to find the group who chased her and the others, only for Gregg, Bea, and Angus to refuse to let her go by herself. The group enter the old mines and meet the mysterious group, who are revealed to be a cult. The cult turns out to be behind the kidnappings of several residents, including Casey, taking those whom they deem useless to society and whom they say will "not be missed" into the mines to sacrifice them to a god-like chthonic entity called the Black Goat in exchange for keeping the economy of Possum Springs afloat. The cult's leader allows the group to leave, threatening them never to tell anyone about the cult - however while riding up the mine's elevator, a member of the group attempts to kill Mae. The others manage to save her and the elevator falls, collapsing the mine and presumably trapping the cult underground.
Depending on who the player interacted with the most throughout the course of the game, Mae will sit down with either Bea or Gregg and talk about the events of the previous night, and all the things that have happened in Possum Springs. The others join them shortly after, and Mae tells them that although they will all be forced to grow and adapt to life as it goes on for better and for worse, they can still enjoy their time together now. The game ends as the four decide to forget about their problems for the time being and have band practice.
Night in the Woods was announced on October 22, 2013, on Kickstarter. Holowka and Benson set a US$50,000 funding goal, which was reached in only 26 hours. The project eventually earned over US$200,000 in crowdfunding. The additional funding allowed Infinite Fall to hire animator Charles Huettner to create additional animations, and for Infinite Ammo and game developer Adam Saltsman to create a roguelike that is playable within Night in the Woods. While Benson believed adding further stretch goals would result in additional backers, Infinite Fall limited the amount of stretch goals to avoid scope creep. Benson names Chris Ware, Mike Mignola, Mary Blair, Flannery O’Connor, and Richard Scarry as influences on his work on Night in the Woods.
In October 2017, it was announced that the game would be ported to mobile devices by Secret Lab, with a tentative release set for 2018. In January 2018, the game was officially announced for the Nintendo Switch, and was released for the console the following month, including all content from the Weird Autumn edition.
Developer Alec Holowka created the soundtrack for Night in the Woods. Three albums of the game's music were released via Bandcamp on March 9, 2017. Holowka named DIIV as a large influence on the game's score.
Night in the Woods received very favourable reviews. On Metacritic, the PS4 version has an average score of 87 from 15 critics and the PC version has an average score of 88 from 30 critics. Praise is mainly given to the writing and characters. In his review of both Night in the Woods and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation called the game "a solid 'worth checking out'" and complimented its "strong writing" while stating his reservations about the game's pacing and tone. In Japan, where the PlayStation 4 and Switch versions were ported and published by Playism on March 28, 2019, Famitsu gave them each a score of one eight, one nine, and two eights for a total of 33 out of 40.
Eurogamer ranked the game 13th on their list of the "Top 50 Games of 2017", and GamesRadar+ ranked it 17th on their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017, while Polygon ranked it 23rd on their list of the 50 best games of 2017. The game was nominated for "Best Comedy Game" in PC Gamer's 2017 Game of the Year Awards. It won the award for "Best Adventure Game" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards, whereas its other nominations were for "Best Art Direction", "Best Story", and "Best Original Music". In Giant Bomb's 2017 Game of the Year Awards, the game won the award for "Best Cast of Characters", and was a runner-up each for "Best Debut", "Best Story", and "Game of the Year". It also won the award for "Best Character" (Mae) and "Best Dialogue" in Game Informer's 2017 Adventure Game of the Year Awards. Before that, the game won the award "Best 2D Visuals" and the overall award "Golden Cube" in the Unity Awards 2017, whereas it was nominated for "Best Desktop/Console Game".
|2017||SXSW Gamer's Voice Awards 2017||Gamer's Voice (Single Player)||Nominated|||
|Golden Joystick Awards||Best Storytelling||Nominated|||
|Best Visual Design||Nominated|
|Best Indie Game||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Award (Infinite Fall)||Nominated|
|The Game Awards 2017||Games for Impact||Nominated|||
|Best Independent Game||Nominated|
|2018||21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Story||Nominated|||
|D.I.C.E. Sprite Award||Nominated|
|National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards||Art Direction, Contemporary||Nominated|||
|Writing in a Comedy||Won|
|SXSW Gaming Awards 2018||Most Promising Intellectual New Property||Nominated|||
|Most Fulfilling Community-Funded Game||Won|
|Excellence in Narrative||Nominated|
|Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award||Nominated|
|Trending Game of the Year||Nominated|
|Independent Games Festival Competition Awards||Seumas McNally Grand Prize||Won|||
|Excellence in Visual Art||Nominated|
|Excellence in Narrative||Won|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||Best Debut (Infinite Fall)||Nominated|||
|Best Visual Art||Nominated|
|14th British Academy Games Awards||Debut Game||Nominated|||
|Game Beyond Entertainment||Nominated|
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