Night in the Woods: Come for the Existential Dread, Stay Because Escape Is An Illusion

Author’s note:  You know what doesn’t help the feeling of existential angst and dissociation from reality that comes from being forced out of a compelling narrative? Being forced out of a compelling narrative whose core themes involve existential angst and dissociation from reality. Night in the Woods is a charming, beautiful and honest depiction of life as a less-than-sane social outcast and general weirdo, struggling to find both a sense of belonging and individuality in a world whose expiry date passed over a decade ago. Set in a stagnant mining town slowly being devoured by the indifference of the state and the encroachment of corporations, Mae Borowski is an anti-social weirdo with a history of unprovoked violence, returning home after dropping out of college. The greater part of the game is actually spent wandering around the town, learning about Mae’s own history through her interactions with the other characters and learning things about them that they never discussed when they were kids – practically everyone has a history, and it’s rarely pleasant.

The characters are very real, and their histories will speak to some more than others. There’s some fairly heavy themes here, but they’re presented sincerely by characters who really are trying their best. The visuals range from quaint to gorgeous, the music is haunting, and there’s plenty of little things to do in town if you have the patience to find them. There are some fairly inconsequential choices, and some fairly significant ones, and I suspect that it’s not possible to experience all of the game’s content in one run. Because no matter what you do, you’ve only got so long before you need to spend a Night in the Woods.

Anyway, here’s my best effort at an in-character, spoiler-free recap.

So yeah, I guess it’s finally time I wrote this down. It’s been a few months before everything went crazy and even now I’m not super sure what was real, or what was in my head or what was in other people’s heads but also in mine. In mine in a mine, heh. I guess that’s a spoiler, huh?

I should start over. I’ve scribbled a few things down but it’s like, when I’m dead maybe an archeologist or a coroner looks over it, I don’t want them thinking I’m crazy. Well, that would actually be kinda cool, and also I might be, but I want them to know for sure what I think happened and pictures aren’t going to do the job. You need words. But also pictures, so I’ll add some. Maybe I’ll take some photos and stick them in here, too.

Anyway.

I came home from college a few months ago. Feels like a million years. Or eleven hours. My parents forgot to pick me up, so I had to run and climb and jump over a lot of stuff to get home, except I got arrested because only weirdos run and jump and climb on stuff in the middle of the night. That’s me. Aunt cop was nice about it though – took me home.

Town hasn’t changed. Except for the stuff that has, but I’d forgotten how pretty it was. Or maybe it’s just nostalgia. Like, everything looks really simple and rustic but it’s home. I guess that’s the definition of nostalgia. The neighbours are still assholes, but I guess I’m an asshole too. Just a bunch of assholes in assholeburg. Asshole town. Ass city. Metropol-ASS. I’m a genius. GeniASS. I need help

But yeah, nobody forgot what I did. And now that I’m back, it’s like, I couldn’t even succeed at running away, which sucks, because they’re stupid and don’t know anything. Just stand around and complain about the same shit over and over. My parents are super disappointed in me still. Dad hates his job. Mom is trying, but it’s like I betrayed her or something. Some people are cool though. My friends are still here! The band is still here! Literally!

Gregg is still awesome. He works at the Snack Falcon now, except he somehow is never really working and can leave whenever he wants. I don’t even think I’ve ever seen his manager. Maybe he murdered the owner and pretends to work for them now? That sounds like the kind of thing he’d do.

Also, Gregg got a boyfriend! It’s Angus. He’s a really nice guy and super smart. He works at the video store and he and Gregg are still living together here in Possum Springs for the time being. We still spend a lot of time playing games at their place, mostly to get away from our parents and talk about weird shit.

Oh and Bea is still here. I never really knew her very well back in school – we just kinda got pushed together – but we’ve been through a lot and I think even though her life is shit and I’m kind of a shit person… Anyway, we’re doing out best.

And then there’s Germ. He’s cool. And that kid on the roof. I wish I’d spent more time talking to her. And the poetry club.  I shouldn’t have made fun of them.  And that cute girl at the party out of town. One day I’ll see her again and be all like SECRET HANDSHAKE and not awkward at all.

So yeah anyway I spent a lot of time just walking around town. Like, a LOT of time. SO MUCH TIME. There’s really not much to do but it’s nice talking to people I guess and there’s some neat secrets you can find if you don’t mind breaking into places exploring a bit. Angus fixed my laptop which was super cool of him – it still had the game I had on it when I was a kid (I couldn’t get past level 8 though.  Not hard, just frustrating). I got to play in the band again (I have forgotten how to bass omg) and ate pizza with everyone (RIP pizza place) and went to a cool party (and got drunk and threw up just kill me) and went to another party (babemax sexy handshake extreme) and found a severed arm in the road. That kinda happened and Aunt cop said not to think about it and we were like “Okay, but not really,” because, you know, it was a SEVERED ARM.

But like, even after that not really much happened. I hung out with Gregg a bit and almost died. And then hung out a bit more and almost died. I also hung out with Bea, which was hard because she’s super busy. I convinced her to do some stupid shit, and then I said some stupid shit and we had a fight, but we’re cool now. It’s like, I was letting one friend ruin my shitty life and then ruining the shitty life of another friend. I didn’t even get to hang out with either of them or even Angus as much as I would have liked, but even though the days felt super long you run out of days faster than you think.

I’m still having the dreams, which sucks. Really messed up and weird dreams. I guess the… whatever is still down there. Or maybe it’s not and I was crazy all along. Still crazy now. Doesn’t change much, I guess.

It’s funny because, all my life I’ve been waiting for something super freaky and terrible to happen. Like, I was trapped in a story where I was being controlled like a puppet. I was just a bunch of paper pieces on string, reading lines from a script until something horrible happened. And then something horrible happened and suddenly there wasn’t enough time.

I wonder if those guys are still

Maybe God was kidding when he said

I can never tell my friends how

I guess I’m still not ready to talk about it. Or write about it. Or think about it. We’ve come out of an especially effed up part of our lives and back into our normally effed up lives. Maybe we’ll find time to talk about it later.

Looking back, it’s like, there was so much more I could have done. Like, I took the time to talk to people when they were around, but I never really went out of my way and I know that I’ve missed stuff. But even if God came down and was like, “Hey wanna try again kiddo?” I’d be like “Nah,” because you should only get one shot at things like this, and doing it again would be like cheating. Or maybe I’ve already done it again and I just want to get on with things.

Anyway, I’m meeting the band at Angus and Gregg’s place. We’re getting tacos from that new taco place delivered – I’m going to eat so many effing tacos, they’ll need to roll me out of the building on a trolley.

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