On the outside Night in the Woods looks like an interesting adventure with a beautiful art style.
Dive in for a couple of hours and you realise there's so much more than just that. Despite the characters being anthropomorphic, their problems hit so close to home it's hard not to relate to them.
It may be a little slow at times, but it's an exciting package tied together with a great, big, hallucinogenic bow.
Night in the Woods focuses on Mae Borowski, a recent college drop out, after she returns to her home town of Possum Springs. Though she expected things to be the same, in the two years she's been gone her friends have grown up in ways she hasn't.
Bea, Gregg, and Angus all have full-time jobs and Mae swans about day after day looking for something to do. This includes bothering her pals at work, going to band practice, or doing something in the evening with them.
The game takes its sweet time to get going, but it's so very necessary to the plot. Each day that passes helps us to peel back another layer of the different characters, and to learn more about Mae, her family, and the individual issues her friends are facing.
In fact, a lot of it - especially at my current 'learning to adult' stage in life - is incredibly relatable.
Underneath this story of social, educational, professional, and personal uncertainty, there's also something much darker at play that doesn't appear until later in the game.
What really resonates is the fact that Infinite Fall hasn't shied away from touching of larger issues.
Two of the main characters are gay, Mae is bisexual, a lot of the protagonists have major stories of abuse and troubling childhoods, and there's a strong theme of depression, anxiety, and disassociation among other, more unearthly things I won't spoil.
That sounds like a lot to take, but the script balances everything out and gives the game its charm. The writing is fantastic in almost every area. The jokes are funny, the confessions are heartbreaking, and the conversation between the group is very natural.
The music by Alec Holowka adds to the feel of the game without overwhelming the experience. It's been carefully crafted to help you fit into the day's mood, and really brings the experience up a notch.
Though it's a narrative-driven adventure, there are also a fair amount of random mini-games to take part in.
You'll face the pressures of playing bass on a song you don't know, stabbing at your friend in the woods, shoplifting, squirting people with a fish fountain, and there's even Demontower - a game within a game.
Maebea a few issues
Despite how good the game itself is, there are a couple of smaller performance issues on the Switch.
Loading times aren't deal-breaking, but they're not the best, especially given their frequency. There are a few dodgy framerates in docked mode as well.
The game itself can be pretty slow going at times, so die-hard action-oriented souls might find the pace driving them crazy. Oh, and then there's the steep difficulty curve of the bass playing to top things off.
Given that Mae acknowledges that she's forgotten how to play, that's likely another clever technique from the developers to really make us connect with her on a personal level however.
It's a tricky thing to balance out so much, but Bethany Hockenberry and Scott Benson deserve a huge amount of praise for their writing.
Creating something that's sometimes thigh-slappingly hilarious, while also being painfully honest and heart-wrenchingly sad is an incredible feat.
Night in the Woods doesn't hit every note all of the time, but it certainly hits most of them, and all while offering up a deeply clever and thought-provoking story.
I cannot recommend this enough to fans of narrative adventures, and for the price it's totally worth it.