Developers: Daedelic Entertainment
Publishers: Daedelic Entertainment
There's something irresistible about The Night of the Rabbit to someone who grew up on a steady diet of the fantastical adventures peddled by the likes of Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll, Gaiman, and a certain A.A. Milne. Indeed, when I jumped into an hour and a half of The Night of the Rabbit a few weeks back, I expressed a certain delight at the whimsy and wonder to be found in Daedelic's latest adventure game. A few seemingly obtuse puzzles aside, I found that little snippet to have an abundance of warmth and imagination, and my main question afterwards was whether or not Daedelic could sustain that feeling across a full game.
Happily, the answer is a resounding yes.
Part of what makes The Night of the Rabbit so appealling comes in the simplicity of its opening. Jeremiah is a young boy, lamenting the fact that he only has a day or two of holiday left before its back to the contained monotony of school life. He dreams of becoming a magician, but he's a relatively poor apprentice, and the dream looks as if it will stay that way: just being a dream. Until, that is, he bumps into a dimension-hopping rabbit in a top hat, who just so happens to be a magician, can fix time so that Jerry isn't away that long, and proposes that the young lad realise his fantasy. It's wish fulfilment at its finest.
Of course, Daedelic have had occasional issues in the past with clunky scripting, voice acting that can be rather wooden and unsatisfying, and the odd irritating character. But I found little of that with The Night of the Rabbit.
The setup is so earnestly in touch with the after-school cartoons of the 90s, themselves predicated on decades of whimsical talking woodland creatures, that it's a surprise to find little by way of postmodern tongues-in-cheeks. There are a few cheeky, knowing winks here and there, but The Night of the Rabbit does little to dive beneath the surface of such formative experiences, instead it simply replicates them lovingly, aided by watercolour vistas and hand-drawn visuals that dazzle and delight, and make you feel as if you were playing through Christopher Robin's diary.
In taking an approach that's almost wholly lacking in irony, The Night of the Rabbit runs the risk of alienating broad members of the gaming audience, but this rather works in its favour. It's a niche game, to be sure, but it knows its audience well and, if you're of a certain disposition, or an adventure game fan who's found themselves wrapped up in a little too much murder fatigue, it'll certainly put a smile on your face.
That extends to the gameplay mechanics: it's as pure a point-and-click adventure as nostalgic genre fans could hope for, which again has its pros and cons. You'll romp from one gorgeous setting to the next, clicking on everything and everyone you can find, hungrily devouring information and seeking out every last nook and cranny and hidden frame just to soak up more of the game world. There's plenty of inventory management to be done in between eavesdropping on the gossipping woodland creatures you encounter as your floppy-eared mentor -- the Marquis de Hoto -- leads you from your world into the city of Mousewood.
As diehard fans of classic point-and-click adventure games can attest, though, the puzzles often can be something of a mixed bag. Thankfully, The Night of the Rabbit gets this right most of the time. There's a day/night cycle to Mousewood that features heavily in terms of puzzle progression, and many of the game's conundrums are illuminated simply by getting to know the idiosyncrasies of the characters in greater depth. Mousewood, unlike Deponia, is a place stuffed with life and laughter, filled with weird and wonderful creatures and vignettes, and as such I rarely found myself frustrated at having to go through it with a fine-tooth comb on occasion to root out a solution to a particular puzzle. Moreover, when Jeremiah starts learning spells -- one makes nature bloom a little faster, another disguises Jerry in the minds of others -- the game's rich tapestry of mysteries and riddles becomes incredibly gratifying.
I'd be lying, though, if said I didn't get stuck on occasion. Though the majority of its puzzles make sense, there were one or two in this game that left me in the dark with little to guide me. There are a few modern concessions to make things easier -- a magic coin is on hand to make the interactive objects in the vicinity glow helpfully -- but the Advice Giver spell, which puts you in contact with the Marquis should you find yourself stuck, is almost laughably useless. De Hoto simply regurgitates what you're supposed to be doing, rather than giving away any indication as to how in hell you're supposed to actually go about it. With this in mind, it's worth pointing out that your enjoyment of the game is likely to be tied to your capacity for appreciating Mousewood and the work Daedelic have done. I loved it, but I did find myself wanting to slap de Hoto in the face on one or two occasions for being distressingly unhelpful.
There are some utterly fantastic eureka moments to be had in this game, but one or two points of real frustration which really slow the pace and severely break the immersive feeling that the game's aesthetics strive so brilliantly to keep intact. A real hint system, one that nudges ever so slightly rather than simply revealing the answer (as a Google search might do), would have been very welcome on occasion.
That said, it's still well worth joining Jeremiah Hazelnut on his adventure. No, it might not appeal to those who've avoided adventure games n the past, but there's much to be said for the sheer joy that this game exudes. It's a game that resonates on a number of levels too, depending upon how much you read yourself into things. A bildungsroman tale at its heart, the last days of Jerry's holiday, his oncoming adolescence, the wistful tone and nostalgic framing, all come soaked in overtones of a golden age slipping away. This is Daedelic's love-letter to the past -- both in form and function -- a reminder that adventure games can still be wondrous, and that childlike whimsy need never be too far away.
- Absolutely gorgeous
- Delightful in every way and complimented by a beautiful score
- Some very well-worked puzzles
- Spells are a treat
- A few frustrating puzzling moments
- Hint system is awful
- Resolutely traditional
The Short Version: The Night of the Rabbit is charming, sweet, and provides an adventure stuffed with imagination and moving memorable moments and characters. It won't convert genre-haters, and it doesn't take any real risks with its form or narrative, but it's a beautifully wrought game that pulls you into a interactive fairytale, puts a smile on your face, and utterly warms your heart.