The Night of the Rabbit Preview
The down-but-not-out genre of point-and-click adventure games has experienced something of a renaissance of late. Somewhere between Telltale’s resurrection of beloved old adventure game properties (and their application of the formula to crowd-pleasing licensed titles), the advent of easy to use adventure game programming tools, and the return of the ‘casual gamer’ (whom many of these games appealed to initially – face facts, your mom probably liked Myst), adventure games are seeing an upswing in popularity not experienced since the early 90’s. Night of the Rabbit falls squarely in line with classic adventure game design, while adding a fresh art style and enough gameplay tweaks to be palatable to any gamer in the year 2013.
The Night of the Rabbit – which, despite its title, is not a Watership Down/Night of the Hunter crossover – is an upcoming adventure game from German-based studio Daedalic Games, creators of the Deponia series, a fantastically funny trilogy of sci-fi point-and-clicks (as well as publisher of the outstanding Diablo substitute, Torchwood II). Coming for both PC and Mac on May 29, 2013, Night of the Rabbit should prove fun for both old hands of the genre, curious onlookers, and even a younger crowd looking for a good story.
After a vague, slightly Braid-esque introductory chapter, Night of the Rabbit concerns itself with the adventures of one Jeremiah Hazelnut (Jerry to his friends) and his encounters with a mysterious rabbit who calls himself the Marquis de Hoto. Jerry is a pretty relatable protagonist – the game begins with two days of summer vacation left, and just like any child who has experienced the soul-crushing terror that notion brings, he wants to have as much fun as possible within the next 48 hours. A mysterious letter appears, whose instructions lead Jerry to an even more mysterious trunk of magical goodies (goodies that Jerry, a budding magician, accepts gladly) and it is from there that the proverbial hijinks ensue.
Between the kid-friendly plot (there’s occasional flashes of darkness, but nothing worse than any post-80’s children’s movie), the soothing, faintly Celtic background music, and the Edward-Gorey-meets-Lemony-Snicket art style, Night of the Rabbit is well suited for both younger audiences, and more experienced hands. The puzzles provide a challenge without ever proving too obtuse (many of the solutions seem pretty obvious in hindsight, which is always nice in an adventure game) and the voice acting and writing are enjoyable enough to keep you interested. Everyone speaks with a soft British accent and the art style indicates an odd timeless quality, where postwar English villages can exist right next to sprawling urban metropolises, and kids can still dress like newsboys and use old tube radios. The preview build ran beautifully on both my high-end (if I do say so myself) desktop and my trusty, beat-up hand-me-down Compaq laptop; the official website’s system specifications make it seem like almost any computer handy will at least be able to run it. It’s not the most technically challenging game to run, but the art style is so nicely executed you won’t even care.
My only mild gripes with the game come from some of the puzzle-solving mechanics. The cursor offers a context-sensitive ‘action’ selector; as opposed to, say, Sam and Max Hit the Road where you had a list of different actions to scroll through, the game automatically selects which action is relevant to which item. For example, anything that can be picked up causes the cursor to change to a hand, whereas items that can only be looked at triggers the eyeball icon. While this certainly contributes to the overall ease of solving the puzzles, some seasoned adventure vets may feel it’s a touch too simple – and, on a personal note, takes away a bit of the game’s personality. Part of the fun of old adventure games is hearing someone like Ben (you know, Full Throttle’s Ben) grumble about how he isn’t gonna put his lips on that. The only other concern I had was with the game’s journal system. Ostensibly a record of Jerry’s thoughts during his quest, it’s just a little… vague. For example, an early quest calls for you to read a poem and decipher the formula for a magic spell. If you forgot one of the lines of the poem, or needed a pointer for what ingredient to gather next, you had to open your inventory and have Jerry read the entire poem to you again. Opening the journal did nothing but to tell you to read the poem and work out the ingredients. Instead of providing any clues or context, it basically serves as a “Current Objective” descriptor and I feel it could have been more useful.
None of these minor complaints are enough for me to dissuade anyone from trying Night of the Rabbit, though. The lovely art style and solid gameplay should thrill anyone with patience for puzzles and a love of adventure, and it may even be enough to turn younger gamers on to the thrill of pointing and clicking and pointing more. If you want a well-done adventure game not tied to a pre-existing series, TV show, or comic book, the Night of the Rabbit couldn’t come soon enough.