Indie Invasion: Why ‘Night in the Woods’ is Getting the Attention ‘Oxenfree’ Deserved

Hello Ace Cadets! …C’mon, it’ll be a thing! It’ll be cute! No? Let’s discuss this over dinner. Anyways…

A lot of people are buzzing about Night in the Woods and it immediately made me a think of another game from last year that most people skimmed over.

Oxenfree. It’s an amazing game with a striking art style, sharp script and impressive sound track. They both cost 19.99 on Steam and make some very right choices and some very wrong ones too.

Night in the Woods has a very striking art style. It’s simple but animated well and gives you appeal of being in a small town without feeling trapped in the level designs. I think one of the biggest things this game does right, that Oxenfree missed out on, is it makes all of its characters very expressive and animated in the face. While walking around and interacting in Oxenfree, the art style chose not to animate their characters faces and in some of the key scenes you have to only rely on dialogue and character’s body language to discern their reactions. While this does add to the paranormal thriller element I think it hurts its characters relatability a lot.

I think the issue with the art style choice in Night in the Woods is that it’s so cutesy that sometimes the seriousness of the issues it deals with gets drowned out and often you think the characters are younger than they are meant to be (although maturity is a big conflict for the main character so maybe some of this is excusable). Night in the Woods also seems to just be cutesy for contrast or for cuteness sake. Oxenfree is richly illustrated with water color style that becomes contrasted with the glitchy, computer-like paranormal effects and lighting moments that make it breathtaking and add to the narrative of parallel worlds in the game.

Both of these games are incredibly dialogue driven. Night in the Woods does a good job at keeping its dialogue natural and appropriate for the ages of the characters but I think it lacks in depth. Every conversation in Oxenfree seems to have this layer of subtext underneath it. There’s a good reason for it too! The script was written by Adam Hines, lead writer of Tales from the Borderlands. Every character still sounds like a teenager but there’s this hidden side of themselves that’s hinted at and slowly revealed as the game rolls out. Your choices shape the main character in Oxenfree a lot more while Night in the Woods is more like different options for a character who’s already fleshed out. It is pretty nice that you can choose which characters to get close to and have extra conversations with. Both have a lot of replay-ability value in discovering new scenes with characters and endings.

Pacing is a huge part of both of these games. Night in the Woods is so incredibly slow paced. I love games that are heavily dependent on dialogue and that most would label a “slow burn game” but it really takes a LONG time before anything that could vaguely be considered action takes place and I mean a LOOOOOOONG time. They even drop in something very disturbing at the beginning of the game and then it’s not talked about again for a long time. Pacing is definitely an improvement that could be made to the overall game. In contrast, Oxenfree would probably also be called a “slow burn”, but it throws you into the action fairly quickly then leaves for big dialogue conflict driven sequences between several big events.

It also has a GENIUS dialogue system that more games should use. As you are entering into these long conversations with the characters of the game, you are allowed to freely move around the stage, usually towards your next destination. It makes travel interesting and gives you freedom of movement instead of trapping you while dialogue it taking place. It suits the attitude of the teenagers and the topic material perfectly.

Both games are really great, but Oxenfree definitely handles pacing, heavy dialogue, and building suspense a lot better than Night in the Woods does. The same font and dialogue style only leads players to compare the two, which is bad for Night in the Woods which definitely holds up better with no comparison. This doesn’t mean that it’s not also a great game, but I just think that it sticks a toe into the ocean that is Oxenfree‘s incredibly polished game.

But Night in the Woods has gay animal boyfriends sooooooo

(Seriously though go buy both)

– Ace


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