If you’re reading CGM, you’re probably the type to be aware that the Electronic Entertainment Expo just wrapped up this year’s bazillion-dollar showcase. What you might not know is that a smaller, more humble conference rests in the giant’s shadow. Venus Patrol’s Horizon event introduced us to some of the more unique and eccentric projects of last year. 2014’s event began with a game that’s a rare kind of special that’s difficult to describe.
Night in the Woods follows a cat returning home to autumn in a dead-end town. The local mining industry is defunct, the reason people stayed since faded. Residents are leaving. Her friends are trying to find ways to move on. The future of Possum Springs is dwindling alongside its foliage, and yet folks are finding ways to be happy. With no small share of misgivings about their respective fates, the burgeoning adults and the center of the game struggle to discover what they want to do with their lives. Maybe they’ve decided ambivalence is the easiest way to deal with this kind of uncertainty.
The presenting developers offered a pithy description of the subject matter. “Night in the Woods is a game about the inevitability of death… and pizza parties.” “It’s this idea that something is coming, so in the meantime you kind of have to do what you can with the time that you have, and for a lot of these characters it’s probably going to end up being a pizza party.”
Characters cut from basic shapes thickly populate what is otherwise a charming 2D adventure game. The softly bustling streets hold plenty of neat things to see and hear. The demonstration shows our feline protagonist balancing along phone lines, leaping around rooftops, and engaging in philosophical discussions about doughnuts with a punk rock fox. It looks utterly and absolutely endearing.
Look for it early next year.