It might seems counter-intuitive, for such an intimate, unflinching look at young adult angst and small-town ennui, but Night in the Woods plays even better on a big screen.
Just released on Xbox One, the game’s Director’s Cut has some extras, but it’s largely the same story as the the game launched last February. It stars Mae Borowski, a 20-year-old college dropout who returns to her small town, expecting domestic comfort, and instead faces down the economic depression around her and the ways in which she can't outrun the troubles.
Mae comes back to Rust Belt-y Possum Springs to find her parents and best friends a little older, the town itself a little more depressed, the whole world a little more tired. Mae finds her best friends Gregg, Bea and Angus all working retail jobs, dealing with adult problems, emotional issues, and other stressful stuff, whereas she just wants to prolong her adolescence.
Mae is relatable, charming, and oftentimes, realistically difficult. She has emotional issues and a real reticence to grow up that sometimes grated on me—a feature I liked, since it frankly reminded me of myself at that age. I cared about Mae even when she acted like a selfish little asshole, and even when I wanted to reach into the screen and give her a parental shake on her shoulder, I also wanted to give her a hug.
Oh, she’s also a cat. Everyone is an anthropomorphic animal in this town, but not in a goofy or exaggerated way. It just looks distinctive and very pretty, and that aspect is the first thing I noticed when I sat down with the game on the much bigger screen in my living room.
The layers pop out a bit more. The fall colors and muted tones of the backdrops serve the colorful characters—and their respective dramas—of the game’s young protagonists even better. There’s a sequence with Gregg—Mae’s best buddy—on a bike in the autumn woods that is positive breathtaking on a bigger screen, with the reds and yellows and oranges flying by as Mae and Gregg ride through. Similarly, Mae’s dreamscapes feel bigger, broader, and (appropriately) weirder with more screen real estate.
That it does so without losing the sense of intimacy, connection, and emotional vulnerability of the writing is a feat.