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Video Game Review: Night in the Woods

January 18, 2018 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off
Night in the WoodsAh, crimes…

After beginning its life as a Kickstarter project back in 2013, Night in the Woods arrived on Steam and the PlayStation 4 last February and then hit the Xbox One in December. It’s the story of a group of anthropomorphic animals living in a small town with nothing to do but practice instruments and do crimes, and it only gets stranger from there…

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

Despite being primarily a story-focused experience, Night in the Woods cobbles together a number of different gameplay elements. Navigating the town of Possum Springs offers some light platforming, taking part in band practice challenges you to hit the correct notes Guitar Hero style, and there are several other mini-games as well. It all handles adequately, and the variety is appreciated.

There is also a game within the game called Demontower, which you can play from the laptop in your room. It’s not robust enough to be a standalone, but it’s good for what it is. Unfortunately there is a tendency for your character to end up facing the wrong way when swinging its sword after moving. Our guess is that it’s an issue with controller sensitivity. Whatever it is, though, it’s frustrating.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.5/5)

Simply put, Night in the Woods is among the most visually endearing games we’ve played. Character design is really well done, and the way the world animates around you as you walk the streets is both vibrant and delightful. There’s loads of little secrets and detail work as well that serves to underscore how cleverly put together this entire world is.

An excellent soundtrack elevates the game’s presentation ever further, deftly matching the mood as you encounter various emotions. Your band practice songs have a very amateurish feel to them, which we assume is the intention, though we were too focused to follow the lyrics.

GAMEPLAY (4.5/5)

After suddenly and unexpectedly dropping out of college mid-semester, 20-year-old Mae Borowski arrives back in Possum Springs, where the closing of a local mine signaled a permanent downturn in the economy. Now it’s a small town with precious little opportunity within its borders, and it’s also populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals (and some regular animals as well).

Mae is a cat, and after taking up residence in her parents’ attic she sets about reconnecting with her friends. There’s Gregg, a wolf that works at the local convenient store, Bea, a chain-smoking gothic crocodile, and Angus, a soft-spoken hipster bear that is also Gregg’s boyfriend. Other characters play roles as well, but the game primarily revolves on these three and more specifically on your relationships with Gregg and Bea.

While a college dropout hanging with her buddies may not sound like the most interesting of setups, the skill with which it’s delivered had us hooked with minutes of Mae getting off the train. The writing is endlessly clever, and you’ll want to do and see everything you can every single day lest you miss a witty interaction. Perhaps even more impressive, Mae’s sarcasm never comes across as manufactured. It feels like these are snarky young adults living their lives.

Beyond the day-to-day doldrums of life in Possum Springs, Night in the Woods also adds elements of mystery and danger as you progress with strange disappearances happening in town. Mae’s take on the situation seems a bit farfetched, but it’s clear that something is amiss with her to begin with, including an event from earlier in her life that the townspeople cryptically reference.

Most days follow a pattern where you’ll get up, walk around town, interact with people and then choose whether to hang out with Gregg or Bea that evening. It is here that the game gets some replay value as you’ll want to go back to see what you missed by befriending one rather than the other. Obviously you can’t recapture everything from the original play through, but a second trip should push the game to around 20 hours.

As much as we enjoyed Night in the Woods, its payoff isn’t great, pasting an X-Files sort of vibe onto a mostly grounded story that touches on a lot of serious topics (abuse, mental illness, struggling with your place in life, depression, economic stagnation and more). It also feels like it rushes to the finish line a bit, though none of those things offset how effectively the story is told and relationships are built.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

Night in the Woods tells an excellent, well-crafted story that creates real emotional connections and is able to broach serious issues in an approachable way thanks to its sharp writing.

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Blu-ray Review: Blade Runner 2049

January 15, 2018 | by Herija Green | Comments (2)
Visually, Blade Runner 2049 is impeccable. It carries the aesthetic introduced in the original and turns the dial to 11, utilizing mostly practical sets and effects to create a technological continuity that Scott’s Alien has completely lost with Prometheus and Covenant. Seemingly every detail is accounted for, and the cinematography and production design are brilliant.
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Blu-ray Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

January 13, 2018 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off
On the coastal city of Ninjago, life is good… except for the incessant attacks from the sinister Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) and his Shark Army from their offshore volcanic island base. Fortunately for the citizens of Ninjago they’re protected by a secret ninja force whose giant mechs have been able to thwart Garmadon at every turn.
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Blu-ray Review: IT

January 11, 2018 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off
Skarsgard does a great job of bringing the demented Pennywise to life. There’s an awkwardness to his movements, and little touches like the drooling and one eye going crooked help push the idea that there’s something very off about it. His childlike voice and unsettling appearance are a potent mix for creating a terrifying presence, allowing Skarsgard to dominate his scenes.
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Video Game Review: The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series Collection

January 9, 2018 | by Herija Green | Comments (0)
There have been plenty of great relationships in video games over the years, but the bond between Lee and Clementine remains among the best. Although the idea of having a story that branches out based on your decisions has become a staple of TellTale Games this was where it started for them. Everything felt fresh at the time, too.
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