‘The Night Of The Rabbit’ Review – Hoppily Ever After
The basic ingredients for a great game are as follows: enjoyable gameplay, engaging narrative, and aesthetically pleasing, well-planned design choices. Add to that a dollop of magic, a plethora of content, and a sprinkling of childhood nostalgia spiked with unique personality, and you’ve got yourself a delicious recipe for one Night of the Rabbit. This latest point-and-click adventure from Daedalic Entertainment is virtual proof that when you wish on a star, sometimes dreams really do come true.
The game welcomes players to Mousewood, a realm of talking (and rather well-dressed) animals and creatures straight out of classic fairytales. It’s a world where mice and mouse-sized men work together, where rabbits train heroes and crows are the size of dragons. And you, Dear Gamer, get to explore this world and interact with its inhabitants as Jerry Hazelnut, a young magician-in-training recently apprenticed to the Marquis de Hoto, a white rabbit with impeccable manners and a mysterious past.
With a deftness that would put the Artful Dodger to shame, The Night of the Rabbit nicks some of the best bits from favorite fairytales with a wink and some quick sleight of hand. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to envision Alice stumbling through Mousewood on a merry chase after the Marquis, or Christopher Robin playing peek-a-boo with little Ursula the owl under the shade of the Old Path Tree.
Hints of stories like The Wind in the Willows, Redwall, and The Secret of NIMH add color to the storybookish landscape of the game, especially for those of us who were raised on tales of the strange and fantastic. But just as excellent cooks can take all the old ingredients of a familiar recipe and create something novel and magnificent, Daedalic has created a whole new witch’s brew with this latest release. While references are fun, a truly well-told story can stand on its own, and the tale of The Night of the Rabbit is certainly a story worth telling.
Taking advantage of the video game medium, the narrative is brought to life not merely through good writing but also gorgeous and vivid 2-D art, a whimsical soundtrack with an appropriately epic adventure theme, smooth gameplay, and memorable characters voiced by a cast of fairly talented actors. The Marquis in particular is a treat to listen to – he’s a little reminiscent of Roddy McDowall (and if this were a Rankin/Bass movie, that’s exactly who would play him) with his warm and friendly voice, and possesses quite a gentlemanly demeanor and an oddly spotty memory. There is a sense from the very beginning that there is more to him – indeed, more to the whole story – than meets the eye, and the desire to progress through the game is fueled as much by a curiosity about the past as it is by anticipation of the future.
Of course, story alone isn’t enough to make a game. Luckily, team Daedalic has mastered mechanics as well as semantics. The optional tutorial in the beginning – which is every bit as entertaining as one would expect from the creators of Edna & Harvey and the Deponia series – describes the control scheme perfectly: “It’s just one click! Everything is just one click!” While nothing particularly ambitious has been done with this facet of the game, there is much to be said for ease of experience – and nothing’s easier than a simple mouse-click, right?
The challenge, as with most point-and-clicks, comes not from physical gameplay but rather figuring out what to do next. Much like the Marquis himself, Night of the Rabbit gives you all the information you need, but leaves it entirely up to you to put the pieces together. Though there is a journal feature, it is generally useless, and might as well have been left out entirely; the real clues are found via vigilance. Pay attention to what is said – even minor characters have a hint or two handy – and cultivate a clear memory. All the answers are there; the trick is recognizing them when you find them.
There are, however, a couple of new features this time around. In addition to the usual exploration and puzzle-solving, there are also several mini-games, including a round of hide-and-seek and a card game based on the rules of Go Fish. While they don’t feel particularly necessary to the plot, they are amusing little breaks from the usual gameplay. (However, if you would rather focus on the main story, they are all optional, and not needed to complete the game.) There’s also a ton of unlockable content, and it’s not just your usual wallpapers or concept art images, either. Bonuses include a collectible card deck, stickers, and a lovely audio book containing eight short stories set in Mousewood.
The Night of the Rabbit isn’t without flaws; lagging issues and off timing sometimes hinder the flow of dialogue and action, odd graphical quirks occasionally cause characters closer to the foreground to appear slightly less in focus, and not all of the solutions to the riddles of Mousewood are satisfying. Sometimes an easier approach seems to stare you in the face, but due to the game’s linearity, a longer and more complicated process is required in order to progress. Longtime fans of Daedalic may also miss the darker, more sarcastic tone of previous releases, but the lighter touch of Night of the Rabbit is not without its amusing asides, and is a better fit for the gentler setting of Mousewood.
In spite of the hiccups, however, in the end the most difficult part of playing the game is trying not to fall in love with it completely. The spell it casts is surprisingly effective for a game that, at first glance, appears to be nothing more than a quirky children’s story. Like all the best fairytales, it’s fit for anyone and everyone to play, and it stays with you long after “The End.”
To follow Jerry and the Marquis down the rabbit hole – er, portal tree – visit the official site to purchase the game or to keep tabs on future updates from the developers.