Starting now, I’ve added something new to the reviews, a little Good vs Bad summary at the start because I know some people just don’t like lengthy reviews. Let’s get started!
- Strong puzzles.
- Visually stunning.
- Fun LucasArts (mostly) Easter Eggs.
- Fun collectibles have you scanning the environment, taking in the beautiful visuals.
- Story is a mess.
- Characters are flat.
- Spells are underused.
- Hint Spell is useless.
- Limited World-hopping.
- Some puzzles tie together rather loosely and require big leaps of logic.
- Repetitive actions and animations.
- Extremely specific and restrictive “item combination” recipes.
The Night of the Rabbit is a 2012 game by Daedalus entertainment, makers of the very entertaining and sometimes frustrating Deponia Trilogy (the third game, Goodbye Deponia, only a week or two from releasing). The game stars Jerry Hazelnut as he traverses through worlds on his way to becoming a magician (read Wizard), as Treewalker, capable of using Portal Trees to jump from world to world (not that you can choose where to go or in which order).
The game opens up with protagonist’s teacher, the Marquis De Hoto, the Rabbit in the title, coming up to a nexus between worlds and jumping into Jerry’s in order to meet him and recruit him, so to speak. From then on, you control Jerry as he solves convoluted “Classic Monkey Island” style puzzles, involving giant leaps of logic and a lot of improvisation.
On the gameplay front, NOTR is a very strong game, with puzzles ranging from simple to excruciating, though mostly because the game is very specific, almost anally so, on the order in which items must be combined, leaving you stuck when you combined item A with item B with no success, only to discover later on that you had to combined B with A, because that’s how it was programmed (the magic ritual being the only forgivable one). As part of the “Monkey Island” style of puzzles, from which Daedalus draws strongly in their games, sometimes you’ll get lost because of the difficulty in linking a location and a set of actions with one another in order to solve a puzzle. The “Dandelion” puzzle is the clearest and most jarring example of this.
Another, if minor gripe, is the repetitiveness of certain actions and the response. If you are repeating an action, the character does and says the same things over and over again, to the point of insanity. Refilling a cup of coffee, adding stuff to it, throwing it down the drain and switching from day to night will make Jerry say the same things, and if other characters are involved, such as the infuriatingly annoying Mr. Churchmouse and son, they will also repeat their lines to the letter, instead of just “skipping the formalities” so as to not make you waste time and lose sanity points.
But other than that, the gameplay is very solid, and the puzzles are really good and most of them are pretty clever. The inventory management is also good. You can bind it to the scroll wheel on your mouse (aka Mouse Button 3) for a very comfortable, and quick, inventory access.
Plot & characters are where the ball drops for me.
The plot is a convoluted mess that transitions unsubtly from an adventure story, one of discovery and learning, exploring new worlds and meeting strange and wondrous people, into an apocalyptic one involving a dark conspiracy, without much rhyme or reason. Rule of thumb, if at the end you need a lengthy cinematic to explain THE ENTIRE PLOT, you’re doing something wrong. And it’s not a bad story necessarily, just badly told, dragging certain segments of the story for far too long in favor of more puzzles involving pretty much every single NPC in the game, while rushing the end.
Most of the characters are completely forgettable, with the only actually interesting one being the “real” Marquis, who might have less than 5 minutes of screen time, and who might be the only truly developed character (in that he’s flawed and “real”). Jerry, the protagonist, is up there in my list of Dullest Main Characters in Video Games. It might be the writers’ fault or the actor, who seems to have the emotional range of a teaspoon. Even moments of tension or surprise are met with an apathetic (if not unconvincing) tone of voice to rival The Illusionist (in case you don’t know, it’s one my Urban Arcana characters). The Marquis appears eccentric but his sporadic involvement renders him uninteresting. The people of Mousewood, where 95% of the game takes place, are a mixed bag of two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, with the Council, the Leprechaun and the Kitsune being the most notable and interesting of the bunch, the Council’s Owl hinting, in his sleep, at some really dark backstory involving the council’s missing third member. The Lizards are some of the worst villains I’ve seen, and the “main” villain comes close behind them.
For a game that revolves around the idea of world travelling, there is little traveling done, at least when it’s not story specific, and those world-hops are short ones in order to solve a small puzzle and learn one of the four mostly-useless magic spells, with very limited uses, being tied to very specific puzzles and leaving you feeling they were very good ideas that weren’t fully explored. One of them you use ONCE in the entire game. The first one you get is the worst, that being the “hint system” for the game, which only states your main objective while giving no information on your current puzzle. The only part of your magical arsenal worth its salt is the “Coin with a Hole”, which gives you “True Sight”, meaning it reveals invisible stuff and also shows you all the hotspots in the room (meaning where you have to click on to do stuff), which comes in handy.
From your starting world, you go to Mousewood, a village of anthropomorphic mice, squirrels, hedgehogs, hares, toads and 2 owls. From Mousewood you jump to other 4 very small, mostly 1-2 room “worlds”, though they just seem to be different countries, with one of them clearly being Ireland, the other Japan and another the North Pole. To me this was a wasted opportunity to go big and weird. In fact one of the worlds mentioned in the PLOT EXPLAINING CINEMATIC, includes a mirror that shows you your own inner light and darkness, which is central to the game’s backstory (and pretty much sparks the plot), and you never see it in-game.
Visually, the style is beautiful, with hand drawn locales, characters and with some very beautiful and subtle lighting effects (Portals mostly). The drawing looks similar to old children’s fairy-tale books, the Marquis looking very regal and poised like a fairy-tale prince. The mice in Mousewood reminded me of the old Disney Cinderella, that same style. It’s less cartoony, being more classic book illustrations. The menu’s themselves look like sketches, which to me was a very nice touch.
Daedalus has also added a few Easter Eggs here and there, a few references for the Adventure genre fans, such as a letter from a travel agent called M. Calavera (Manny Calavera from Grim Fandango) and Jerry at some point stating he’s “Jerry Hazelnut, Mighty Magician” in the same way (though not the same emotion or intensity) as Monkey Island’s Guybrush Threepwod claims he’s a “Mighty Pirate”.
On a similar note, there are plenty of collectibles in the game and even a Card Game called Quartets (basically Go-Fish with some very cool card designs based on plot elements and characters). Collectibles come in the form of audio stories from the Wood Sprite, Dew Drops, Stickers and Cards (if you don’t find them the cards are blank, only showing the suit) that can be found all around Mousewood.
The Night of the Rabbit is a flawed game, with strong gameplay marred by a few bad design choices and a very badly developed story and unappealing characters. It’s my opinion it should’ve gone back to the drawing board a couple more times to smooth out a few more details, both on gameplay with some of the weirder puzzles, and story.
Mental Attic Rating: Wait for it to be on sale. Then again, it costs $20 on both Steam and GoG (links below) so you won’t be wasting your money on it and you will get your money’s worth on length alone.