“This Town Is Full of Ghosts!”: The Power of Atmosphere and Landscape in Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods bike

(via ZAM)

You first meet the protagonist of Night in the Woods, twenty-year-old Mae Borowski, when she arrives at her hometown’s bus station after dropping out of college. She remarks that the bus station is probably the newest and fanciest building in the town of Possum Springs, all the better to give people coming through the best first impression possible. However, we soon see that the bus station, with its shiny floors and glorious sunny mural advertising prosperous life in Possum Springs, is just a façade, and as soon as Mae arrives in the town proper, we see that it’s crumbling inside and out.

As Mae explores her childhood home, the game’s use of color, landscape design, character dialogue and atmospheric music all help to build a rich, vivid, sensory picture of this once-great but slowly dying coal town, injecting so much personality that the setting almost feels like a character. Which not only makes it a fantastic backdrop for the unfolding story, but a neat metaphor for what’s going on with Mae herself. And… also a little bit of something deeper and darker.

Spoilers for the end of Night in the Woods ahead!

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Women of Xal

I won’t lie to you, readers: I’ve been excited to write this Web Crush for a while now. Strong as my love is for dating sims, I’ll be the first to admit that the setups usually draw from the same pool. School romances with various magical trappings; the new woman in a business where all her other co-workers are men: the tropes are familiar and comfortable, but sometimes we all need a little spice in our lives. A little something to shake things up. So today I present to you a dating sim that breaks out of the more typical shoujo romance mold and thrusts you into a world of corporate intrigue where romance may be the last thing on your mind.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Marry Me, Jaehee!

You may recall earlier this year when I spoke of Mystic Messenger, the mobile dating sim game created by Korean company Cheritz that blew up in certain circles on the internet. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I lamented that Jaehee’s route—the only woman on the datable cast—left off on a wholly unsatisfying note. To that effect, not too much later I recommended a fic that I hoped would soothe the pangs left by Cheritz. This time, I aim to do the same, but through a different medium. Though the fandom has quieted, if you’re like me and still eagerly, but silently, waiting for more Mystic Messenger content, I bring to you this fan-made game starring none other than the queen of the RFA: Jaehee Kang.

web crush wednesdaysSpoilers for Mystic Messenger below!

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Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, Nature, and Community

It happened: I finally heard those familiar notes of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” floating around, so that must mean that the winter holiday season has finally started. Amidst the constant reminders of such-and-such shopping days until Christmas, I would be remiss if I didn’t do a little shilling myself. To be fair, though, this shilling is a long time coming.

One of the largest breakout hits of the year was Stardew Valley, a love letter to farming sims everywhere developed by one person, ConcernedApe, over the course of four years. Stardew Valley offers its players a true choice to approach the game however they want, and while there is a very loose main plot, you don’t really have to follow it if you don’t want to. If you want to spend your time chilling in the mines, you can do that. If you want to actually use your farm for farming things, you can do that, too. You can also choose to pursue a significant other in a way that isn’t limited by the typical heteronormativity of most dating mechanics. There are lots of ways in which Stardew Valley really shines in the farm sim genre, and one of the ways I wasn’t expecting was how it approaches the idea of community as aided by the valley’s supernatural inhabitants. 

The Junimos (small Jell-O-like creatures) in Stardew Valley silently stand back and watch the town, gently guiding the player character through the main plot of restoring the town’s community center should the player choose to help them. Thinking about it a little, these cute creatures reminded me of the Harvest Sprites from the Harvest Moon series. While much more proactive and full of personality, these creatures, too, set the player on the path to saving the land, waking up the Harvest Goddess, or whatever else the plot needs you to do. Yet their main goals and how they intertwine with the mortals they watch over—especially through the player character who can actually talk to them—differ in ways that raises the question: does nature itself nurture and shape a community, or does a community shape the nature around them?

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Queerly Represent Me

Video games are great. Over the years the medium has flourished into a bountiful crop of entertainment; if you’re looking for a specific story or method of gameplay, it’s sure to be out there somewhere. As the game catalog continues to expand, however, sometimes it gets a little difficult, or appears incredibly daunting, to find that specific something you’re looking for. This is especially true when searching for queer representation through the swathes of games that would just rather not explore this aspect of their audience. Today’s web crush hopes to make this search a little easier on those wanting a little more LGBTQ+ representation in their gaming experience.

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Rin Plays: Style Savvy: Fashion Forward

Given the current state of the nation, I think it’s fair to admit that a lot of us are reeling and suffering from the recent election results. While I absolutely respect and encourage those who are able to go out and protest in any way they can, sometimes we all need a little diversion from the shittiness that’s been thrust upon us. While for me this usually manifests in playing Harvest Moon or fiddling with the slew of dollmakers on Rinmaru, I just so happened to come upon another great game for when you really want to disconnect from the real world for a bit. If you’re a fan of internet dress-up games too, then you’ll adore Style Savvy: Fashion Forward.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Kitty Horrorshow

Though I tend to stay away from actually playing them, I have a soft spot in my heart for horror games. Whereas controlling the games myself makes me too anxious to enjoy the experience, watching at the digital side of various Let’s Players allows me the freedom to appreciate these games at my own pace. During one such viewing, I felt like I was doing more than sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an inevitable screamer—I became enthralled by the game’s atmosphere. The game was ANATOMY, and by the end of the unsettling romp I knew that I had to look up the game’s creator, Kitty Horrorshow. What I found did not leave me disappointed.

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