Come with me for an adventure of such whimsy! Yes the whimsy is strong with this one! Magic! Adventure! Animal People! Vague environmentalist messages! …. WHIMSY!!!
Daedalic Entertainment are an interesting company that produces interesting games. It doesn’t always work but they’re always interesting one way or another. I’ve already reviewed A New Beginning which is, as far as I’m concerned, a complete disaster. I started Edna and Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes but for reasons totally unconnected to the game I haven’t been able to do much of it. What I’ve seen, however, I’ve enjoyed. Daedalic have this very weird blend of excellent games paired with some pretty terrible ones. It’s always clear that a lot of work has gone into their world building but in A New Beginning this came at a serious price.
The Night of the Rabbit is a point and click adventure starring Jeremiah Hazelnut, a boy with a dream of one day becoming a magician. He seems to live this idyllic life in a little cottage with his mother just on the edge of a city and is quite obsessed with adventuring in the countryside. One day he receives a mysterious letter and, after performing a magical ritual, summons the Marquis de Hoto, an anthropomorphic rabbit with big red eyes, who says that he is a magician/wizard/treewalker who would like to take young Jerry on as an apprentice. Of course Jeremiah accepts and is taken to a world of other anthropomorphic animals. Jeremiah begins his training to become a magician but along the way discovers that the world is in danger and he must use his newfound magic to save it.
Now normally I have very little to say about the gameplay of point and click games because it’s always the same, it just depends on how well the puzzles are crafted. Daedalic seemed to decide that they wanted to do things a little differently and as such introduced quite a few mechanics to the game to break up traditional puzzle solving, they’ve also really streamlined how you interact with everything. There’s a day/night cycle for one thing that you can switch between in order to find new items and speak to people in different situations. There are also magic spells you can use to further the backstory as well as tools to solve puzzles. The unfortunate thing is that as the game goes on these mechanics become less and less useful to some of the later spells have one or two uses in the entire game. You would think that a spell that can create illusions would be fun and useful but it has about two uses in the whole game. The puzzles themselves are well crafted, with a few real headscratchers put in there for good measure.
The story is well told and there is a ton of backstory to find. The joke I made at the beginning about the amount of whimsy in it is quite apt. This game is absolutely full of whimsy. This is a game where the line “On a day in Summer Vacation anything is possible!” is said multiple times and is said seriously. But you know what? It really works, it’s not embarrassing, it’s just funny. Whether or not this is intentional is hard to know but if it works then why question it? The story itself is pretty well told and does build to a really epic conclusion. It’s a shame then that a lot of the ending is taken up with a massive, and I do mean massive, exposition dump. This is probably what the game does least well in terms of storytelling, there are some great long sections of explanation and exposition which could have been told in a more natural way.
Some of the earlier parts of the game don’t feel like they measure up to the epic nature of the ending. Particularly, I think, the relationship between Jerry and the Marquis. The Marquis is incredibly important to the plot but he and Jerry actually interact surprisingly little. You can talk to him through most of the game but he pretty much says the exact same thing each time and can remind you of your objectives. It feels like he and Jerry should have had more screen time and developed a relationship. For one thing I think it would have added deeper levels to the finale.
To be honest I think this is a criticism I have with many modern adventure games. They don’t tend to build up character relationships enough. The reason that The Walking Dead worked so well was that you actually cared about Clementine, she and Lee have a really deep relationship that the player is invested in. I think that many games want to create this sort of relationship but aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to actually pull it off.
This is probably the biggest complaint I have in the story, Jerry and the Marquis should have developed their relationship to a much deeper level in the story.
The art of the game is pretty brilliant, the sets are excellent and the characters look really interesting. It’s something that does make an adventure game that much more fun, actually enjoying what you’re looking at. I don’t think there was a single set that wasn’t interesting for one reason or another.
For those who enjoy collectibles there are a ton of them in this game, many of which have a bit of an impact on the story. Some of them are more frustrating than others and I did give up on some. Some of them tie directly into the story, giving hints and clues, while others are just collectibles. One such collectible are a series of playing cards which you can use to challenge pretty much everyone to a game of Quartets (basically Go Fish!). This does get boring very, very quickly, and has little to impact the plot. It’s just a little side thing that some people might find enjoyable but I thought fell flat.
Now I can’t finish my review without talking about the game’s environmentalist message. Yes, it has one. Don’t ignore it because of that, it’s not like A New Beginning. For the most part the game is pretty subtle about it and does a good job of critiquing many things about modern life, such as instant gratification and false spiritualism, and the environmentalist message plays into it. There are a couple of moments, however, when it becomes quite heavy handed and annoying. Some giant moths start talking about a terrible flood of stick grey fluid that is evil and destructive… yes, cement. They also talk about this foul smelling mountain that caused some creatures to start acting crazy… a landfill. It’s not bad but it gets a bit heavy handed at those points to an eye-rolling level. I think they could have left those bits out and kept the environmentalism stuff subtle.
The game is, in my opinion, a bit pricey for what it is, it’s $20 or £16.99. For an adventure game like this I would say that’s a bit much, it’s really a game to get when it’s on sale and I don’t doubt it will be sooner or later.
I enjoyed Night of the Rabbit, it’s fun and interesting and is taking point and click games into interesting directions mechanically. I really like the world that has been created and while I don’t know if a direct sequel would work I would really enjoy seeing more games in the same universe. The ending does turn into this spiral of awesomeness that I would like to see expanded upon but I doubt that we’ll see this sort of thing again. Daedalic like to create universes and then leave them unless there’s a direct sequel. So I would like to see more but I’m not holding my breath. Still, the game is good, if pricey, and I am glad I played it.