Belying its bright, fluffy exterior is an intensity to be found in The Night of the Rabbit which I did not see coming. In the same way which Bill Waterson weaves moving undertones into his playfully constructed Calvin and Hobbes comic strip series, Daedalic has created something that is layered and often surprising with its depth.
The Night of the Rabbit is a point and click adventure game that tells the story of Jeremiah Hazelnut. Jeremiah is a young boy who also happens to be an aspiring magician. The story is likely to charm you immediately, and starts out with Jeremiah wandering through the woods near his home. With just two days left of his summer vacation, he bumps into Marquis de Hoto: a rather dapper speaking rabbit who offers to teach him the ways of the Treewalkers – magician-travellers who use trees as portals to move between different worlds. He also promises to have Jeremiah home in time for dinner, so naturally the boy agrees to join him.
One thing that really struck me about Night of the Rabbit, is that it is near perfectly paced. Things move along slowly, but steadily, and you never feel like things are dragging out. This is an incredibly important feature for any game, and probably more so when it comes to adventure games, which rely heavily on storytelling and character building. The controls and interface are seamless, which makes it easy to sink into the game, and once you are in, you are unlikely to stop until the end.
In terms of presentation, I can’t heap enough praise on Night of the Rabbit. The hand-painted backgrounds show off inspired art direction, and the characters are rendered in a very specific style that lends itself perfectly to this sort of storytelling. The voice acting is particularly good, and the music is precisely directed to manipulate your emotions quite expertly. It’s all perfectly on point.
The Night of the Rabbit is also consistently interesting thanks to a wide range of different tasks you will find yourself hopping between, from delivering mail or making a birthday cake, to far more fantastical activities. In the early stages of the game, the puzzles are not particularly challenging, but do enough to keep you engaged. Towards the end, they ramp up in difficulty, and things become more demanding.
There are also a variety of extra gameplay features tacked on, such as the built-in card game which you can play at any time with most of the game’s characters. It’s pretty much a fantasy version of Go Fish, but it can be a welcome diversion at times. There are also loads of hidden items to collect, as well as the Mousewood Stories audio books that inject additional context into the fantasy world. Many of these additional features tie into Steam achievements and unlockable digital artworks.
My only criticism of Night of the Rabbit has to do with the last hour or so of gameplay. The game, which has otherwise impeccable pacing, struggles to carry the momentum through to a graceful finish. The final act throws a variety of gameplay curveballs that seem disjointed from everything you play up until it, and it even serves up a boss fight which is awkward and unnecessary – I couldn’t help but grimace throughout the entire thing.
Thankfully, once you manage to plough through the final bit of gameplay, you are presented with a fantastic end-game solution, which is presented in a lengthy and beautiful series of illustrated cutscenes. It’s a beautiful and moving end to a thoroughly enjoyable game.
The Night of the Rabbit is available right now on Steam for $19.99.
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