Few games choose or succeed at the ambitious challenge of trying to capture the angst, unhappiness, and confusion of young adults entering the real world. This is one of the rare ones that stands out. Don't be fooled by its cartoon animal characters; Night in the Woods tells a coming-of-age story with personalities that are much more authentic and honest than those we normally see in games aiming for photo-realistic graphics. Their conversations, while funny and sarcastic, often also are melancholy and relatable, exploring problems to do with parents, relationships, friendships, mental states, and the future. And Mae's journey, which has her friends and family worried about her physical and mental well-being, is absolutely compelling. She feels like a real, three-dimensional human in feline form. The larger mystery with the severed limb and missing persons, which may or may not involve ghosts, acts as a catalyst to help Mae and her friends deal with their own personal issues.
Narrative adventures often succeed in storytelling but fall down in terms of design as well as keeping players interested and active. Not this one. While there's a bit of repetitive journeying back and forth across the same streets and buildings, the designers have injected a wide variety of interesting activities that help keep Night in the Woods feeling like a game. Most nights, Mae's dreams/nightmares provide creative running-and-jumping puzzles, the band's jam sessions offer a surprisingly challenging rhythm game, and little contextual activities -- like feeding a family of mice living inside an old parade float -- are gradually unlocked all over Possum Springs. The result is a character-driven story that's also a lot of fun to play. There are precious few other games like it.