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Live Blog They Went Looking for the Gods, and Died in Lonely Places: Caliburn plays Night in the Woods
CaliburnAbsoluteEX2018-02-03 18:39:22

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Late to the Party By Almost a Year

At its most basic, Night in the Woods is an indie platforming adventure game by Infinite Fall that's decently popular for its well-crafted narrative and characters. Going beyond that, it follows the life of Mae, a college dropout with no idea what to do with her life, as she returns home to the deadbeat town of Possum Springs and goofs around with her friends as strange events begin to unfold. Probably. At this point I should clarify that I've deliberately kept myself in the dark about this game ever since it came out almost a year ago because I had no reliable means of running this game smoothly before the Switch port came out and if I didn't restrain myself I'd ruin the entire experience with my Spoiler Hounding like I always do. Of course, since old habits die hard, I still know at least two spoilers if you're curious... , but for the most part I'm in the clear. Not like some Gregg-related shitposts are gonna spoil much beyond a coyote guy wearing cups over his ears, right?

...I dunno how to segue into the actual liveblogging so I'm just gonna dive right in.

After starting the game up and allowing Mae to stare into my soul as the initial loading occurs, I fiddle with the sound settings before jumping right in. The game opens with a sort of choose-your-own-adventure text scroll where you get to pick little details that affect how the opening narration plays out. ...Does it count as narration if nobody's reading it aloud?

In the year Granddad died
the highway extension came
the road through Possum Springs
had been the only way to the state park
the highway took the traffic
but gave us Donut Wolf Cal's note 
Granddad left me an apple crate of books
He loved ghost stories Cal's note 
And quoted them to himself in the hospital bed
"They went looking for the gods,
And died in lonely places." Cal's note 
on his last day
he sat up suddenly
and stared bug-eyed through the window
at the old trains
rattling to somewhere else
from somewhere else
he turned to my dad
eyes still wide
"this house is haunted"
he said
and died. Cal's note 

My dialogue choices and their results are italicized in the above passage. I must say, this is a nice little way to start things off. I have no idea how much my decisions here will effect how things play out in the future, but even if they don't I'm expecting more storybook sequences like this that might matter a little more.

This segment is followed by a loading screen with a little bus animation, after which our heroine disembarks at the bus station and laments the fact that it's empty as hell. From there, the gameplay begins. The control stick moves Mae around, the B button makes her jump, the X and + buttons open Mae's journal (which doubles as an options menu), and the Y button is used to interact with things and people. Pretty simple, but pretty effective as well. I take the time to poke about the bus station and see what Mae has to say (which, as it turns out, is mostly negative with the exception of her crush on a soft drink mascot). I waste some time watching the tv in the station just to see how much dialogue's written for it before I finally get around to talking to the janitor, who vaguely reminds me of that pigeon from that kid's book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

...It has never occurred to me until just now how weird the title of that book sounds.

The janitor's busy trying to fix the door, estimated time of completion being the moment we can grab him a Fiascola from the vending machine he rigged. The vending machine is actually kinda clever, but golly is he lazy. Not that I mind, since it gives the game an excuse to introduce the... grabbing mechanic? When you go to get the soda, there's a little segment where you move Mae's paw around to grab the soda. It's a cute detail. Once that's done, I give the janitor his "Freeasscola" and he… drills a hole in the bottom to drink it out of. I think this is actually a thing soda can collectors do, does he collect soda cans? As he turns off the lights and takes his leave, I assume that I will never see him again and consequentially never find out either. ...Oh who am I kidding, of course I'm going to see this nameless janitor again, he's probably a Chekov's Gun or something.

First detail I notice as I step outside is the run-down factory in the distance. First detail Mae notices is that the janitor is nowhere to be seen. I probably wouldn't have noticed that if she didn't point it out, so I suppose this is important to some degree. A less important detail that caught my eye is how the fireflies under the streetlights gather around Mae as as she passes by them. It's subtle, but also cute. At the end of the road is a path leading into the woods, and since nobody arrived to pick Mae up, it would seem that her only option is to walk home through the woods. Alone. In the darkness. And the cold. At like, 10 PM. And maybe end up spending the night there because Title Drop (although I doubt that).

Sounds like fun. But it also sounds like something for another update since this one's long enough as it is.

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