Filled with charm, beautiful art, lovely music and good characters, this game is spoilt solely by its puzzles.
The foundation of the story is one Jeremiah Hazelnut’s inescapable adventure as a magician’s apprentice into the wonderful world of magic. After summoning a humanoid rabbit named Marquis de Hoto, Jeremiah is whisked away to a place called Mousewood to get his induction as an apprentice. All doesn’t seem right, and trouble begins to brew soon after a pesky illusionist begins creating problems for the habitants of Mousewood and the other worlds connected by the legendary portal trees.
This is not an adventure on a grand scale, as most of the tale is situated in Mousewood and is spent interacting with its friendly, or not so friendly (damn you, you grumpy old hare), animals. I was a little disappointed that the journey didn’t open its doors to let players see more of Daedalic’s crafted world, since a plot about portals to other realms lends itself well for a point-and-click adventure game. What you do get to see in the game’s self-contained environment are the occasional portal jumps to other worlds, such as the Leprechaun’s lovely green isle coast or the mysterious fox’s Asian-inspired water temple. While these are all wonderfully crafted, they are so small and you are only there for a very brief moment to solve a puzzle or two before returning to Mousewood.
That’s not me saying Mousewood isn’t a delight to explore – it is, and the limited locations you do come across overflow with charm and character. Originally, after covering the preview forThe Night of the Rabbit, I thought there might be daily life activity going on within the confines of Mousewood, due to the movement of NPCs travelling throughout various scenes. This is not the case, but instead, there is a spell that allows you to switch between day and night, switching the situation around and having a new view on the life of Mousewood’s citizens – guards camp out in the night and there’s a birthday party going on for a huge family of hares.
Story is a very important aspect of a point-and-click adventure game, so on that topic, I have a problem with the pacing of The Night of the Rabbit, mainly due to the fact that a lot of answers are thrown out in the ending video. Rather than feeding the information to the player to figure out pieces of the plot, it feels like you’re doing a lot of the things in the game because it’s an “adventure game,” and this leads to the game opening other layers that might build to something but end up becoming nothing.
The Night of the Rabbit is so inspired by the genre classics of old that it’s hard to find something completely refreshing within its gameplay. Players will be doing a lot of clicking on characters and around the environment to find key items or to progress the plot. To help players who get stuck, Jeremiah has a special coin that acts as the game’s way of giving the player hints. An easy press of the Space Bar activates the ability, and all places in the environment that can be interacted with become highlighted with a rainbow-coloured flicker. While this helps with finding undiscovered interactions, it doesn’t help people overcome solving some of the game’s harder puzzles. Even the magical hint spell doesn’t help at all to solve this problem, highlighting my concerns from the preview build that it was an unserviceable feature.
One of the problems with solving puzzles is the game’s open-ended way of dealing with them. You’re never locked to an area, so some of the more illogical puzzles don’t have their scope shrunk down to help give the player an idea where they need to be or what to do. There were a few times I was dumbfounded and spent time clicking and combining everything and getting no luck. It was frustrating. I know there is occasionally that trial and error aspect of a point-and-click that exists, but there’s a difference of having a clue and trying to solve the conundrum based on that hint, compared to haphazardly throwing items together from the inventory or scenery for a solution. It also doesn’t help when the game will have a couple of puzzles active at one time and parts of them can only be done once another puzzle is finished. A more clear-cut hint system would do miracles to solve this problem.
Solutions to puzzles do turn out to be rather clever when you manage to decipher them. Since Jeremiah is a magician, there is, as to be expected, a selection of spells that can be used to solve the challenges put in front of the player. There’s the Greengrow spell that allows vegetation to sprout, handy for making things big in a short period of time. Another is the Fox’s Cunning, which allows Jeremiah to pretend to be something he isn’t, fooling NPCs that otherwise would ignore you for being human.
It’s a misfortune that The Night of the Rabbit knocks over a hurdle on one of the key aspects of the genre, because the rest of the package is a delightful time into the mind of a child’s imagination. Jeremiah is a likeable main character, never sounding stuck-up or cocky, and can make jokes that hit home with anyone who loved walking through their local woods and looking for adventure when they were a child. Jeremiah’s voice actor portrays this with high standards, and what makes the feeling come across as more genuine is that Jed Kelly, the British voice actor that plays Jeremiah, is only 13 years old according to the developer interview on GOG. As a fellow British citizen, I say: Bloody good job, mate. It makes me wonder how many young voice actors are in the industry today. The rest of the voice acting is mostly good work, but the dialogue, while for the most part solid, can be a repetitive or drawn-out at times. There’s only so much I can hear from one mouse speaking about how he sells things of every kind at Churchmouse and Son.
From beginning to end, the one area that The Night of the Rabbit never falters on is its spectacular hand-drawn look. Take a look at any screenshots or video and you’ll clearly see the game’s striking art style. Wandering into a new environment is met with excitement, seeing if the artist can still keep the surroundings looking enchanted and alive with fairy-like charm. Its aesthetics remind me of an old cartoon or children’s book that has sprung to life from a magical painting, with some of the portal worlds teasing the awesome potential these artists have when they put their paint to a digital canvas.
Let me make this clear: The Night of the Rabbit isn’t going to be the best adventure game you have ever played. It wasn’t created to do that. Its design upholds the genre’s conventional mechanics to the point that it doesn’t open itself that well to anyone but fans of the genre. Does that really matter, though? It’s completely filled with charm, beautiful art, lovely music and good characters. While we shouldn’t ignore its problems with the flow of the story and illogical puzzles, this shouldn’t stop anyone who is a follower of the genre from jumping into this world of magic and talking animals to enjoy one kid’s dream of a delightful summer adventure.