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Hugh Likes Video Games: Night in the Woods

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Night in the Woods
Created by Infinite Fall
Published by Finji
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: A brilliantly designed existential horror game

Night in the Woods is a game that struck very close to home for me. It is about a girl who returns to her dying hill town after dropping out of college and discovers that the home she left has changed. And there’s something in the woods at night…
An indie game that was originally published thanks to a 2012 Kickstarter, NitW has the most effective and well-crafted atmospheres I’ve seen in a long time. And considering that this is a 2-D point and click adventure game with some light platforming elements staring cartoon animals, that is really saying something. But the visuals are so on-point in this game, and they are propped up by witty, charming dialog that is the most natural I’ve seen in a long time. If you can’t fall in love with Mae, Gregg, Angus and Bea by the end of their adventure, I’m not sure you have a heart.
The mechanics of the world reinforce this. Following the story, most of the player’s decisions involve choosing which characters to follow, and talking to everyone. There are a lot of dialog options, and while they don’t seem to effect the story much, they do a great job of revealing character, and lead to so many rewarding character moments, they are worth replaying for them alone. The platforming in this game also feels really good, and walking around on the power lines feels transgressive in a way that reinforces character, and leads to lots of cool exploration and interaction moments, like finding hidden musicians and secret rooms. Going too much further into this game will ruin it, but let me suffice to say that everything in this game works together in a way that makes it more than the sum of its parts.
One of the reasons that his game struck me so profoundly, in addition to the fact that the writing is excellent, the art is eye-catching and endearing, and the mechanics just feel good, is that this is a story that happened to me. Not the mysterious disappearances and hostile forces bits, but I didn’t do so well my first year of college, and had to return to my own rustbelt hometown after a year away.
Mae’s reasons for leaving college and coming home aren’t made fully explicit until the end of the game, but I already understood them, because her experience was so similar to mine. I never hit anyone with a bat, but I felt so many of the same things she did, and playing this game gave me a bit of catharsis for those old wounds.
Night in the Woods is less a horror game than an existential horror game, and you can find it on Steam and the usual consoles. These versions also include Longest Night and Lost Constellation, two microgames the team made as Kickstarter bonuses and to test game elements. The whole package is wonderful, and this game is well worth your timeand attention. And Gregg rulz, OK?

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Steamworld Dig

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SteamWorld Dig
Image and Form Games
Played on PS Vita
SteamWorldDig
SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is a quirky indie platformer.  You play as Rusty, a young steam-powered robot called to a tiny frontier town by his miner uncle. The first thing he has to do, however, is solve his mysterious death.  He left Rusty his mine, so the plan is to dig it out, look for clues, and get upgrades from helpful towns-bots on the surface.
SWD is a fun and colorful game with controls that are very easy to pick up.  As you mine valuables and delve deeper, you come across tougher materials and enemies, but gain access to upgrades and better tools.  The balance is nicely tuned to provide a gently sloping difficulty curve.  There are also plenty of hidden areas and secrets to reach once you upgrade your abilities.
The designs are appealing and fun as well.  The post-human wild west setting is delightful and slightly off-putting at the same time, especially when you start running into irradiated survivors in the underground caves.The only major downside to the game is that it is rather short, even for a puzzle-platformer, and the physics puzzles themselves aren’t too taxing.  With only three main sections, The game can be fully cleared in only a few hours.  There have been further games teased in the “Steamworld” line, so hopefully this will only be a teaser of greater things to come.  As it is, “SteamWorld Dig: A fistful of Dirt” is a fantastic platformer for younger gamers, or a worthwhile afternoon distraction for veterans.