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Night in the Woods – a deeply lovable adventure story

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Developer: Finji
Price: $5.99/£4.99
Size: 2.1 GB
Version: 1.0
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Night in the Woods

Mae Borowski is an anthropomorphic cat, but that’s possibly the least interesting thing about the protagonist of Night in the Woods.

More pertinently, Mae is an immature 20-year-old college dropout, who at the outset of the game returns to her downtrodden home town. What unfurls through the next few hours is part side-scrolling platformer, part narrative adventure, part rhythm-action game, and even part action-RPG.

Mae often starts and ends the day chatting with her parents

As Mae, you must explore your familiar yet strangely alien town, reconnect with an eclectic group of friends (all with grievances and hang-ups of their own), and get to the bottom of your own listlessness and alarmingly impulsive urges.

If that sounds like a lot to cram into a simple narrative-driven platformer, well, it is. But developer Finji has approached Night in the Woods with a commendable lightness of touch. The game is capable of covering a surprisingly wide range of tones and moods, from high school comedy to indie drama to creepy horror.

Mae and her friends are in a band together

It might not have escaped your attention that all three of those examples we just used are film or TV genres. There’s no escaping the fact that Night in the Woods is fairly light on the actual ‘game’ stuff.

There’s no great mechanical ingenuity or depth here, and there are no real metrics for success or failure states either. There are only triggers to move the story on, which might just put some people off.

The rhythm action sections are a little fiddly on mobile

But Night in the Woods is written with such charm, humor, and pathos, that it’s difficult to resist nudging Mae to wake up and face another day.

It also helps that it looks gorgeous. The 2D art style used to render Possum Springs and its inhabitants is quite unique. This is accompanied by a beautifully varied soundtrack that always manages to match the nostalgic, melancholic mood.

There are numerous beautifully observed set-pieces

This is a port of a PC and console game, and it doesn’t make for a perfect fit on mobile. Using virtual controls for the core platforming and navigation never quite feels natural.

The rhythm action interludes feel fiddly, too, with touch prompts that are too easy to fumble on a touchscreen. Meanwhile, we picked up on some surprising performance quirks, with the odd pause and stutter serving to partially break the sense of immersion.

Dream sequences add a suitably weird note

But these are relatively small concerns when stacked against the immense narrative and artistic achievements found elsewhere. If those things are important to you, you’ll be in your element here.