Review: 'Night of the Rabbit' for PC and Mac
Night of the Rabbit is a third-person point-and-click adventure game, developed by Daedalic Entertainment, released in May 2013 for PC, Mac, and on Steam. If you like adventure games, check it out! If you're not into adventure games, this probably won't be your thing.
What's it about? You play an optimistic young British boy named Jerry Hazelnut, living cozily next to a forest on the outskirts of a modern city. Summer is nearing its end, when suddenly a tall, talking white rabbit shows up, and you get to fulfill one of your dreams - becoming a wizard's apprentice and learning magic. To do this, the rabbit whisks you away to Mousewood, the miniature world of the forest animals. A darkness is slowly growing, but first you need to explore the area, help people out and learn some basic spells.
Furry-wise, this features a mix of human and animal characters (plus a few dwarves). The rabbit is the only main character who's an animal, and he sits on the side-lines a lot. However, most of the secondary cast are animals, with a wide range of personalities. As you get to know them, you begin to feel a sense of their community.
The game has a kid's storybook vibe, yet the difficulty of some of the game's puzzles are definitely not kid-friendly. And as a bleak feeling began to creep into Mousewood's future, I was a bit confused about what audience the developers were aiming for. Eventually I came to the conclusion that regardless of the children's atmosphere, it's not a kid's game, it's more for teens and adults. The comfortable storybook setting is there to make you feel emotional tension when it starts being threatened, and to create an air of nostalgia.
Puzzle-wise, this game is pretty typical point-and-click fare, with many moments of satisfaction as you figure things out for yourself, mixed in with irritating "How was I supposed to figure that out?" situations. Every time you have to consult an online walkthrough, you lose that all-important game immersion. It's typical of the genre, and Night of the Rabbit unfortunately does nothing to overcome this adventure game stereotype. Although an in-game hint system is provided, it's generally unhelpful. The end-game "battle" is also underwhelming.
Story-wise, most of the major plot details are given to you in the last act of the game, in large chunks of exposition. There are tiny little glimmers of the true story earlier on, but nothing substantial. Don't get me wrong - there's definitely a sense of things developing and building as the game progresses, but this is atmospheric in nature. Personally I prefer a game where the story emerges gradually, because it feels like a story, not like a premise presented at the end. I definitely liked the premise (once I knew what it was), I just wish the pacing had been different. Your tastes may vary, of course! Still, it made some of the early parts of the game feel like time-wasting busy-work, although on the positive side, it's a great excuse to go out, explore and meet people. There were, however, some moralizing bits involving pollution of the environment and evil capitalist greed.
The game's interface is fairly intuitive, making use of both left and right mouse buttons. There's an easy way to show you what spots on the screen you can interact with. The developers also made it easy to double-click on exits, without having to wait for your character to walk all the way from one end of the room to the other. I appreciate this feature when it's included! An excellent touch is the ability to switch between day and night, effectively doubling the exploration - most locations have significant variations between their day and night settings. I really enjoyed this option.
Animation-wise, most of the characters have a very small range of movements, with extra ones thrown in when needed; I felt like the developers could have put more work into this to avoid a cut-out feeling. A pleasant exception is a kitsune character! They applied a ghostly, mystic half-there animation to her multiple tails, a technique I've never seen used before with kitsune, which I think was a really creative touch. (Here's an animated GIF.)
The music is decent and they use good voice-actors, although sometimes they speak a little softly. Definitely play this with the text turned on. Most characters have a very short dialog tree, once you get past meeting them for the first time. There are a number of bonuses you can achieve during the game, such as collecting children's stories, hidden stickers, gathering a deck of cards to play a modified version of Go-Fish with people - but the amount of work involved doesn't result in any significant reward. If you manage to find all the dew-drops, though, a vague hint about the plot's back-story is given.
Night of the Rabbit's background art really shines. Play this on a decent monitor; they put a lot of work into crafting the various locations. (Click on the screengrab thumbnails to see the larger versions.) I played this on a small laptop, and it deserved something better; the 1.7 GHz processor made the cut-scene animations a bit sluggish. Definitely run it at 2 to 2.5 GHz or more. But even on an underpowered computer, you'll get a feeling of a lazy summer's day while you play; it generates a quiet, laid-back atmosphere. There are occasional points of tension (and a small number of puzzles that require timing), but this is primarily an adventure-puzzle experience with a little exploration thrown in.
Overall, the fact that I needed to frequently consult a walkthrough means I can only recommend this to people who are already into point-and-click adventure games. If you've never played one before, this isn't the one to start with. It's not a bad game, but neither is it stellar - it's fairly typical, in both the joys and difficulties that the genre delivers. On the plus side, it's a lengthy game; you'll get a good amount of play out of this one! And finally, there's a dramatic character reveal near the end that I would love to be able to play in a sequel.
For another opinion, check out the review at GamingFurEver!