The easiest way to describe Night in the Woods is to imagine an Animal Crossing game where all of the inhabitants of the town are unemployed and depressed. It's a world of cute animals talking about what it would be like to burn down their room with themselves inside as easily as they talk about the plot of the latest movie, and it's all much more enthralling than it has any right to be.
You play as Mae, a cat who has come back from school to her hometown but has yet to find gainful employment since the old mining town has seen better days. I recommended this game to anyone who would listen at E3 this year and the odd thing is that, when I really think about it, all I did was walk around and talk to other animals. Mae's mom, for example, talks to her about not running around on the powerlines like a kid anymore after they get into a conversation about a movie where a blind guy chases a woman he tried to poison around the United States.
It's all very strange and yet endearing. Characters feel real, like people you would just talk to and bullshit with, and you begin to enjoy their company. Dialogue choices change the conversations that you'll hear and it's one of the first times I've thought I might play through a game twice just to hear what else the characters can say.
Once I left the house I found an old man telling me to warn my fox friend to stay off his damn roof or he'll call the cops and that he knows that fox stole his garden gnome. After certain more meaningful events, Mae will fill her diary (at the behest of her doctor) with scribbles illustrating what she'd seen in her own way. As an example, after I talked to some teens who proceeded to crap all over Mae's perceived badassness she filled in the diary with “Teenagers suck” and a rather unflattering drawing.
Once I found Mae's fox friend and confirmed that he had indeed stolen the aforementioned garden gnome, all three of us went out for doughnuts. At this point the 2D side scrolling presentation gave way to a first person view in which you control each of Mae's arms and you can grab and move things around with each. It's the first time I've ever played a first person doughnut eating game. This would probably be pretty boring except that as you go through the motions the characters talk amongst themselves and continue to amuse.
Anyone who has seen the trailer for Night in the Woods knows that this isn't how the entire game is expected to go, and there's something in the woods that's going to insert some crazy drama and conflict into this otherwise easy-going title. I'm hopeful that what I've played will serve as the perfect prelude by setting up a world of characters that you actually enjoy and care about. If the developers can make this all work it could easily be one of my favorite games of all time, even though some would barely call it a game at all.
If you've read all of this and come to the conclusion that I'm an idiot for raving about a "non-game video game" like this then that's fine. On the other hand, if you enjoy a good story regardless of the medium, then I think Night in the Woods will be right up your alley when it comes to PC and PS4 in 2015.