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Night in the Woods

Developers: Infinite FallSecret Lab Publisher: Finji
21 February 2017
Night in the Woods - cover art
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3.88 / 5.0
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861 Ratings / 4 Reviews
#277 All-time
#15 for 2017
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Title
Twenty is an awkward age for everyone, especially for an American. You’re two years into adulthood, and this is the first formal year graduating from your teenage years to your twenties. Being two decades old should feel like a milestone with perks, but it doesn’t. The milestone American ages are 18 and 21 for obvious reasons, 21 being the watershed age of adulthood with every other subsequent age flatlining in importance until 30 or arguably 25. Turning twenty means nothing essentially other than the fact that you aren’t technically a teenager anymore, but are you more of an adult now than you were when you turned 18? It certainly depends. Despite two whole years of experience in either college, the real world, or some mix of both, two years either seems like an eternity since high school or seems just like yesterday. The latter of the two will even attempt to preserve their high school legacy and or be stuck in a state of whimsical nostalgia for their recent teenage years. Nevertheless, twenty is an adult in the eyes of the law despite one’s personal experiences two years after high school. Because of this, twenty isn’t an ideal age for a coming-of-age story. By the age of twenty, the age that people come to has already come full circle. The stories that revolve around people in their early 20’s are either entirely based on the college experience or completely removed from the same introspective adolescent stories that make up the coming-of-age genre. When I was twenty, I certainly felt different than I did in high school, but I didn’t exactly feel like an adult. I simply felt like a kid tackling a few new responsibilities with a more unfocused sense of direction. Is this what being a young adult is supposed to be like? I have a feeling that the age of twenty feeling like less of a concrete year in one’s adulthood is a generational thing that has come about in the millennial/zoomer generations. We are a stilted group of people due to a mix of economic recession and technical alienation. Because of this, turning twenty is a piddly fizz to rocket off into adulthood and all of the twenty-year-olds can still be subject to the coming-of-age story. Night in the Woods is an artful, honest depiction of a coming-of-age story that resonates with the estranged twenty-year-olds of the 21st century.

Night in the Woods stars Mae Borowski, a twenty-year-old anthropomorphic feline who is returning to her hometown after dropping out of her university. She takes a long trek through the woods on her way home after being abandoned at the bus station by her parents. Along the way, she contemplatively reminisces about the changes and familiarities in her hometown of Possum Springs since she’s been gone. The day after, she galivants throughout the town to find that most of the townsfolk are wary of her return. Mae has a bad reputation due to something she did years ago, but not one person in town explicitly says what Mae did to draw all of this collective ire from her neighbors. She reconvenes with Gregg, a friend from high school who is giddy with excitement to see her. Both of them meet up for band practice with Gregg’s boyfriend Angus and Bea, another of Mae’s friends from long ago that doesn’t seem to be thrilled to see Mae again. After eating some mediocre pizza in a diner, the gang encounters a severed arm on the sidewalk. This event is the catalyst to the mystery plot that makes up the core progression of the game’s narrative. Mae uses her time back in Possum Springs to uncover the mystery behind the arm whilst rekindling her relationships with her hometown friends.

The first thing that grabbed my attention about Night in the Woods was its very peculiar animated graphics. The game has a visual styling that reminds me of a plethora of children’s storybooks I was exposed to at a very young age. Which ones? I can’t quite say, but that particular style of illustration was prominent enough during my impressionable years for Night in the Woods to remind me of it several years later. The most essential features of this illustrative style are the lack of pronounced outlines, minimalistic designs, a lurid but consistent color pallet, and the paper-thin aesthetic that highlights the game’s signature style. All of the characters in Night in the Woods are animals that run the gamut of the animal kingdom. The denizens of Possum Springs range from canines, felines, bears, birds, reptiles, etc. The game however doesn’t make any attempt to reference the fact that all of these characters are different animals. The only instance where it’s even hinted at in the game is when Mae finds a ball of yarn on a bulletin board, calling its placement here “condescending” while simultaneously playing with it. Non-anthropomorphic cats and rats are seen in the streets and Mae’s neighbor’s dogs bark at her when she’s walking on telephone wires. Night in the Woods was never meant to be Zootopia for the young-adult demographic. The fact that the characters are animals is superfluous to their characterization and the story. The reason for this choice was most likely due to cartoonish animals fitting the aesthetic style better than jagged, flesh-colored figures meant to resemble real people. Night in the Woods is also a very dialogue-intensive game as most graphic adventure games are, but there isn’t a single line of voice acting between any of the characters besides some slight grunts that Mae makes at times. The lack of voice acting in a game like this might deter some players, but I think it aids the minimalist presentation. The presentation of Night in the Woods is both charming and inviting and I haven’t seen anything quite like it in a video game.

Night in the Woods is a graphic adventure game, a genre that fits its minimalist design like a glove. Yet, the game feels much less stilted than most other games in the graphic adventure genre. Mae is a wily lass who traverses through the hilly streets and the steep wooded areas of Possum Springs by leaping to great heights and using her catlike sense of balance to walk on electrical wires to reach the tops of buildings and other foundations. A 2D platformer influence is implemented here with enough nuance to maintain its core as a graphic adventure game. Night in the Woods takes many instances to distract from its graphic adventure foundation. The game will often spontaneously break out into minigames. Most of these minigames involve an incredibly small task usually with an unfamiliar first-person POV shot. These range from grabbing a piece of pizza off of a plate, stealthily stealing a pretzel from a vendor, feeding that stolen pretzel to a family of rats, to Mae electrocuting herself trying to ring up Angus and Gregg’s apartment. These instances are so simple and so mundane that it’s difficult to apply the minigame label to them. They do still have an appeal to them because they provide just enough to smooth out the pacing of the already minimalistic gameplay. Some other gameplay varieties Night in the Woods implements are much more involved like the rhythm-based minigame where Mae plays the bass. She’ll get together with her friends for band practice and a Guitar-Hero-like rhythm sequence happens. It’s acceptable to bomb here because Mae herself doesn’t know any of these songs coming into practice. This is a good thing because one song called “Pumpkin Head Guy” is quite a doozy. While most of these occurrences are fleeting, they break up the mundanity of the base game enough to the point where it doesn’t get stale.

Being mundane is usually associated with negative connotations, but this is not entirely the case with Night in the Woods. A humdrum sense of directionlessness is a core staple of the narrative of the game. It took me more time than I am willing to admit to understand that reveling in the directionlessness was what gave the game its substance. Every day, Mae wakes up and frolics through the fix to six different sections of town. Progress in the game is made through hanging out with either Gregg or Bea and afterward, Mae goes to bed and has an interactive, surrealistic dream to cap off the day. During my first playthrough, I’d have Mae make a beeline to Gregg at the Snack Falcon without stopping to smell any of Possum Spring’s proverbial roses. I’m not sure why I was so impatient with this game during my first playthrough of it. Upon my second playthrough, I spent much more time exploring the town and found something magical in every corner. I visited Mae’s mom every day at the church and watched TV with Mae’s dad enough times to uncover the tooth in the basement. I went on an adventure to an island of garbage and brought back some more things to decorate Mae’s room with. I spent time with both Germ and Lori and the final hang out with Germ at his house was wonderful. Of course, doing all of the extra stuff the game offers will make any game more substantial, but my surprise was that doing all of this unlocked more dialogue sequences during the base game that I hadn’t seen before. What I initially thought to be tedium that distracted me from the progression seemed to aid the experience as a whole. The side content adding a hefty amount to the narrative was almost exactly like Persona, but I wish I had this insight upon my first playthrough. Exploring all that Possum Spring has to offer enhances the experience to the point where I was enjoying it more than hanging out with Mae’s close friends.

The game I initially expected Night in the Woods to be similar to was Life is Strange, another graphic adventure game that I have a love-hate relationship with. Besides sharing the same overall game genre (except that Life is Strange is a triple-A game), both games revolve around a young adult female protagonist rekindling lost friendships, jotting down her experiences in a notebook, mature themes that coincide with a coming-of-age tale, and some supernatural elements sprinkled into the narrative. I came into Night in the Woods expecting the same cringe-inducing dialogue and lack of self-awareness that made Life Is Strange a riot, even though it was completely unintentional on the developers' part. After playing through the first act of Night in the Woods, I thought the “youthful” dialogue and the hipster-latent vibe were going to make for an indie, minimalist Life is Strange. The result was that I ended up appreciating the depth of these characters and their relationships with one another genuinely. Night in the Woods succeeds where Life is Strange doesn’t because the characters of the former aren’t portrayed like caricatures. For being a bunch of flat, anthropomorphic creatures, the main characters in Night in the Woods manage to feel more personable than the human characters of Life is Strange.

Mae is a much more likable protagonist than Max Caulfield because there is a sense of self-awareness in her character. Mae’s flaws are very apparent. She’s irresponsible, rudderless, immature, and has a pension for committing some misdemeanors for fun. All of these flaws might point to some fundamental defect relating to the main character, but she is still likable because all of the characters admonish her for these flaws. When the character presents many flaws at the beginning, it opens up a lot of room for character progression. Mae has a not-so-stellar reputation in her town because of an incident that occurred when she was much younger. The reason why Mae committed that heinous act years ago and the reason why she dropped out of college is due to a dissociative disorder that stems from the anxiety of growing up and eventual death. She felt alienated from everyone at college because they were doing adult things and Mae yearned for the nostalgia of a carefree youth that could be achieved by revisiting her hometown. She soon learns through the course of the game that all of these things are inevitable and she must acclimate to them to have a fulfilling life Mae is also funnier, livelier, and much more charismatic than the brooding, introspective Max Caulfield which certainly aids her role as a protagonist.

Mae’s relationships with her friends are much more substantial than Max’s are with hers. Of course, portraying a better friendship compared to the one between Max and Chloe isn’t exactly raising the bar, but Night in the Woods achieves this nonetheless. Bea, Gregg, and Angus are Mae’s three closest friends in the game, and spending time with each of them is the core of the narrative. Angus is only really somewhat related to Gregg in that Mae knows him from being Gregg’s boyfriend, so most of the time with him is connected to Gregg’s story. There are only so many days to spend time with either Bea or Gregg to maximize their character arc, so the game incentivizes a second playthrough. If you can only fit one playthrough of Night in the Woods into your busy schedule, I recommend prioritizing Bea over Gregg. Gregg is delighted to see Mae when she comes back to town, but Bea can barely tolerate Mae’s presence. Bea and Mae’s strained friendship is alleviated through the player spending time with her, making her arc feel earned by the end of the game. The player will get the sense that something happened between Mae and Bea at the ending even if they prioritized Gregg, but jumping to the end without seeing Bea since the beginning feels uneven. Bea works at the Ol’ Pickaxe, the finest hardware store in Possum Springs. Her mother died some time ago and her father is on a mental and physical decline, leaving her in an unfortunate position of doing all of the providing for her family. She resents Mae for her immaturity and her constant pursuit of capturing child-like nostalgia. During her hangouts, Mae does some mischievous things for Bea’s entertainment and Bea gets a chance to let her guard down for a minute. Mae doesn’t put Bea in any danger or take her on some shady affairs as an accomplice like another certain duo of young women from a similar game (I’ll give you a hint: one of them has blue hair) The penultimate moment in Bea’s arc comes when they go to an out-of-town college party and Mae does not make any effort to hide the fact that she isn’t a student there. It’s revealed that Bea comes to these parties and poses as a student to get somewhat of a college experience away from her wearisome life. Bea tells Mae that she envies her for getting a chance to escape the monotony of Possum Springs by going to college and taking it for granted. Once Bea’s arc is complete, Bea and Mae reach a mutual understanding and their friendship seems to be secure again. It’s a poignant arc between two characters with different outlooks that converge nicely by the end.

It’s not to say that Gregg’s arc isn’t enjoyable, but he’s a little too much like Mae. Gregg is also immature, impulsive, and yearns for his rowdy past. He has a job like Bea, but he spends most of his time there goofing off, putting cups over his ears to amuse himself. When Mae comes to town, she becomes a vehicle for Gregg to indulge his destructive side. They have knife fights, beat-up old cars, steal parts of old animatronics, etc. All of this is fun for both of them, but it turns out that Mae is a bad influence on Gregg. Gregg has been trying to grow out of his old, rambunctious ways, and he has his rock of a boyfriend Angus to aid him in his personal growth. Part of me wishes that Angus was a third primary friend to progress through the game with, but I suppose it wouldn’t make sense considering Mae is only acquainted with Angus through Gregg and isn’t an old childhood friend. It’s a shame that Angus only has any real volume in Gregg’s arc as late as the end of it. Mae, Gregg, and Angus all take a trip to a distant donut shop and they both reveal to Mae that they will be leaving Possum Springs soon. Naturally, this upsets Mae, but Angus makes Gregg put his foot down and tell Mae that he wants to both literally and metaphorically leave Possum Springs behind. This scene is a wake-up call to Mae in that even her partner in crime (or “crimes” as they both refer to as an inside joke) has moved on and stopped chasing the nostalgia dragon. While Bea’s arc is a gradual ascension, the finale of Gregg’s arc is a gut punch. I just wish there was more of a subtle progression to this scene involving Angus.

I say that the relationships between Mae and her friends are the core of the game’s narrative, but the game would beg to differ. I mentioned before that Night in the Woods also has supernatural elements interwoven into the plot like Life is Strange. These elements are relatively cohesive, but only to a certain extent. If the player has forgotten about the arm after a while, it gains some relevance at the end of act 2. During the “Harfest” Possum Springs hold every Halloween, Mae witnesses a kidnapping and follows the mysterious figure to the edge of town, but is unable to stop him. She thinks he’s a ghost for some reason and then takes Bea, Gregg, and Angus on trips around to research ghosts on three separate trips (the player can only do two of them). During the events of whichever trip the player chooses, the “ghost” ambushes Mae and her friends. They follow it to the edge of town where they witness a murder scene with tons of people dressed up like the “ghost”. These shadowy figures chase Mae down and wound her to the point where she’s comatose for some time. The next night after Mae recovers, they go back to the edge of town into the old mine where the cult of figures explains that they meet down here to make human sacrifices to an eldritch god who in turn offers prosperity to Possum Springs. Mae believes that this divine being is the one she’s been dreaming about and is the cause of her dissociation problems. The cult explains that they snatch up the delinquents, junkies, low-lives, and overall refuse of the town under the mindset that sacrificing them is putting them to good use. This explains what happened to Casey, a friend of Gregg’s that went missing some time ago. After refusing the cult’s offer to take their places in satisfying the being, a rather peevish member attempts to kill them because Gregg shot him with a crossbow arrow earlier. He plummets down the mine’s elevator, leaving every cult member to die in the mine by proxy.

As hair-brained as this supernatural element is to the narrative, it does somewhat fit the theme of longing and an inability to let go of the past. Mae and her friends are all “grown-ups” by a normal definition, but it’s almost ironic how the older adults also long for the glory days as well. Possum Springs has been subject to biblical flooding, economic recession, and a steady decline in population over the years. The locals who were around for this time of prosperity yearn for those days to come back, but each passing year makes it seem utterly hopeless. The sacrificial rituals they conduct remind me of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson in which they believe that performing these acts will magically bring them to hope because any logical solution will not aid them in the long run. It’s not even clear if the beast they make sacrifices to even exists, but they’d like to believe that it does as a beacon of hope. Either way, they are still throwing people down a mineshaft to their deaths. This aspect of the supernatural element is fine, but what irks me about it is how it relates to Mae and her problems. It feels incredibly unnecessary to incorporate a supernatural element to Mae’s arc as the game was doing a fine job progressing it through organic relationships with her friends. After putting the cult to their dooms, Mae sends a touchy group message online claiming that by vanquishing them, her dissociation is gone as a result. Forgive me, but I don’t see any real correlation. If Mae’s dissociation is fixed, then why doesn’t it seem that way in the epilogue? Mae gallivants around town per usual without any point of newfound clarity. Shouldn’t her arc conclude with her accepting the inevitability of growing up and starting her road to maturity like her friends? The whole eldritch being manipulating her mind seems like just another immature excuse.


After my second playthrough of Night in the Woods, I came to appreciate the game for more than just its quirky presentation. It feels like a very personal game to any young adult who is feeling dissociated from their peers and society’s shortcomings. As I’m writing this, I can honestly say that I might be feeling this as a young millennial/zoomer who feels a bit left behind, and I guarantee I’m not the only one who does. The game does have its flaws about the somewhat mundane progression, the shoehorned supernatural elements, and forcing the player to play twice to get a scope of the full story. In saying this, I’m still glad I played this game again because I started to cherish everything the game had to offer. It’s a unique coming-of-age tale that I’m glad was developed in the video game medium.
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Erockthestrange 2020-11-17T00:00:05Z
2020-11-17T00:00:05Z
7.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
PS: RIP Alec Holowka
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This game means a lot to me on a personal level.
The title is right, I've beaten this game about 3 times over the years and everytime i get more and more sad while playing it, Reminding myself. that sometimes things could be better. Or they could just end up being worse.

This game is genuinely a blessing. I'm glad it came out when it did and it wasn't delayed or rushed.

I love this game, Please play it if you can.
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Not much of a game — this is more like a VN that happens to be a platformer — but my god, is it a really, really, really beautiful VN. So rarely do games try to go in on the themes and writing and succeed this hard. One for the books.
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vvvvvvvvvv 2021-07-02T01:58:26Z
2021-07-02T01:58:26Z
5.0
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Night in the Woods is not a great adventure game. It is however, a fantastic piece of art that brings its story too close to my home for comfort, and has given me an experience that I can't in good faith criticize to that great an extent, despite how heavily flawed it is.

It's defined by its aesthetic generally, the cozy but melancholic autumn colors that bleed through the characters and storyline, circling around nostalgic wants of a past that has left or decayed long ago. Each of the characters presented struggle with their own way of finding a future for themselves, or even their identity. Bea tries to find a place to belong as well as deal with her own struggles, and Gregg and Angus ponder in their own way about where their future should go. It's unfortunately not paced as well as it could (the fact that it's awfully presented that you can only complete one of the character stories at a time is shitty), but each of them are told with such powerfully lifelike dialogue and very natural prose.

The story allows the characters and the town to grow and be further fleshed out as you walk up as Mae, the titular disgruntled and tortured MC. It fumbles over itself in the last act, and honestly leaves this game with a super unsatisfying end, but retroactively I can somehow tolerate that. Because, even despite the story fucking up and failing to capitalize on Mae's arc, it left me with enough heartwrenching stories to ponder over and feel strongly attached to each of the characters here.

I should also mention that NitW also offers a super good retro game to play as well in-universe, with Demontower. It's actually a rather competent 2d action game, with some good enemy and boss design. It came as a big surprise to me that even if you're bored of the gameplay, you have something legitimately fun to play rather than just to read.

Overall, despite its incredibly flawed structure and end, I can't recommend Night in the Woods enough if my description of what the game is about even slightly piques your interest. It's an incredible journey that encapsulates the mental struggle of growing up, depression, and dealing with changing times during economic crisis.
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QuilDewIvy 2021-05-17T00:52:03Z
2021-05-17T00:52:03Z
4.5
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This the kind of game that I had to play during the day, otherwise I'd just fall asleep. It's boring AF.

The focus of the game is the story and it isn't even that good. That ending was so out of place with the rest of the game that I still wonder how it got there.

The lack of voice acting and expressions also don't help. Undertale, which is even more limited with it's graphics, is better at them, especially the expressions.

There are better walking simulators than this, even Life is Strange, a game I don't like that much is more interesting.
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This game seems to have touched a lot of people, but I felt very indifferent after finishing it. It's nihilistic at its core, which is cool I guess, but I felt the game was attempting to build to some point and never got there. The final act of the story was also rushed and felt out of place. Visual design was nice, but I just wasn't feeling it. Wins the award for least likeable main character of any game I played this year!
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jsh357 2017-05-05T18:36:28Z
2017-05-05T18:36:28Z
2.0
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Catalog

cybervampire Night in the Woods 2022-10-01T23:32:58Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-10-01T23:32:58Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Ca_Game Night in the Woods 2022-10-01T15:50:30Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-10-01T15:50:30Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
elijahjbell Night in the Woods 2022-09-30T15:24:11Z
2022-09-30T15:24:11Z
4.5
4
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
oakmin Night in the Woods 2022-09-29T03:32:39Z
2022-09-29T03:32:39Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
getlostdave Night in the Woods 2022-09-28T01:36:42Z
2022-09-28T01:36:42Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
jmo Night in the Woods 2022-09-25T05:40:51Z
2022-09-25T05:40:51Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Kmarksman Night in the Woods 2022-09-25T01:19:13Z
2022-09-25T01:19:13Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
likefigureskating Night in the Woods 2022-09-24T16:03:36Z
2022-09-24T16:03:36Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
cheeese5358 Night in the Woods 2022-09-23T07:08:03Z
2022-09-23T07:08:03Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
iliys Night in the Woods 2022-09-22T19:28:51Z
2022-09-22T19:28:51Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
HedonicStairStepper Night in the Woods 2022-09-21T01:08:34Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-09-21T01:08:34Z
3.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bravesirloin Night in the Woods 2022-09-20T22:12:39Z
2022-09-20T22:12:39Z
7.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
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Comments

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  • Previous comments (25) Loading...
  • M1N4fknRVVM3Z 2022-03-22 13:24:48.822421+00
    have never been able to being myself to continue playing this game. too emotionally draining
    reply
    • M1N4fknRVVM3Z 2022-03-22 13:24:55.982247+00
      that is not a bad thing
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • irishrestaurant 2022-04-11 04:52:33.259573+00
    kinda messy way of exploring human desire for superstition/religion and late stage capitalism but oh well was nice
    reply
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  • doII 2022-05-03 15:49:26.666281+00
    fans of this are lame as hell
    reply
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  • aliteralcrouton 2022-06-20 21:38:24.381253+00
    fans of this are cool as hell
    reply
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  • tdstr 2022-07-03 01:33:02.95198+00
    really did not jive with this one the first time around, its been like a year and a half though & i really feel like i should give it another go. i just remember thinking the characters were kind of bland and not caring for their interactions, especially wrt mae being kind of a dick to bea and it not really having any sort of narrative consequence
    reply
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  • wallrooseyes 2022-07-03 22:12:08.513822+00
    night in the woods: 'sometimes it just be like that'
    reply
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  • m_crowley 2022-07-12 16:30:39.134178+00
    people who complain about this being boring are like people complaining about moulin rouge being too disorienting
    reply
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  • dreeksmusic 2022-07-13 08:46:24.392924+00
    really great game (except for the really slow dream sequences that i didn’t care for)

    final two hours of the game is deffo the best bit. i really liked going back through the town one last time and realising who was now missing, and therefore who was probably a member of that cult
    reply
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