Meet Jerry Hazelnut. He’s your average 12-year-old boy living in a cottage in the woods with his mother, until he becomes a magician’s apprentice after literally pulling a rabbit out of a top hat. He is then transported to a little town called Mousewood where he learns spells, talks to mice and squirrels, and explores the familiar yet strange world that he suddenly finds himself in.
You wouldn’t be far off if you thought this sounded like a generic, old-school fairy, although The Night of the Rabbit—the new point-and-click adventure game by Daedalic Entertainment—contains much more under the surface than a mystical and innocent quest. It’s a game that pays homage to the genre by introducing a new generation to its charm and whimsy, complete with challenging puzzles, complex characters and beautifully-painted scenery.
It harkens back to the point-and-click PC games of the 1990s. While modern games often rely on quick-time events and cut scenes to move the plot forward, The Night of the Rabbit relies on the player using strategy and trial and error to single-click items, combine them and put them back into the environment. The difficulty comes from seeing how the items you pick up interact with each other, and what their ultimate purpose is. It ranges from the basic coffee in a cup that you feed to the hungover party guest, to the coin on a string that you use to trick a vending machine to spout a blue drink that you then feed to a sick dwarf who then gets you more of said blue drink which then—wait, my head hurts, all of a sudden.
People who grew up playing these games will adapt to this style easily, while amateurs will find it more frustrating. The game provides a tutorial section in the beginning that slowly brings you through basic controls and strategies. The first level is fairly straight forward, light-hearted and fun, but the difficulty curve spikes when you realize the next level contains too many items to keep track of, muddling together the quests that continually accrue. It’s also very easy to miss important pieces of the puzzle since there are a lot of possibilities. While you can use a magic coin to highlight the clickable areas, I found myself using the coin more often than I would have liked; I felt like I was relying too much on hints rather than my own intuition. Instead of making me enjoy the game more, it took me out of the experience of just playing the game. Some people might be able to push through this frustration, but others will give up early.
This is less of a fault of Daedalic and more of the genre in general, which always prided itself on puzzles that didn’t work by normal logic, instead using a guessing game as a tool to get the player used to the process. However, what the studio does seem to have is a problem of heart. There is just too much content here. The amount of clickable objects, countless combinations and bonus side quests is overwhelming and you’re definitely going to skip a few. For example, there’s a card game called “Quartets” that you can play with the Mousewood residents for no purpose to the plot. It’s essentially Goldfish and your prize is just more cards to build out your deck. It’s a fine diversion and some players will truly enjoy it, but it’s mostly superfluous and distracting.
There is something to say though about a game that is almost too complete. Daedalic clearly put a lot of time and thought into The Night of the Rabbit and it shows in terms of its fulfilling story, characters and beautiful world. The art alone is reason enough to get sucked into Jerry’s tale. Within minutes, you know what kind of world this is and you want to know more, just like Jerry. His head is set immediately in the realm of fantasy from the moment he awakens, filled with wonders about the odd statues he encounters and the trees that end up containing more than just leaves. There is a strong pastoral emphasis, and each blade of grass adds up to a detailed landscape that feels old-fashioned and charming. The game honors nature with magic that focuses on having you speak to it and letting it grow. Your major quest becomes fixing the flaws of Mousewood and setting the world back into natural order and while it is a burden, it’s one you happily shoulder.
The Night of the Rabbit ultimately is a game about classics. It utilizes familiar tropes and story elements to transition the player into an almost forgotten mindset. In a market that is filled with dark, edgier, modern titles, it stands out as a relic of older games. It won’t appeal to everyone—especially people unfamiliar with the quirks of point-and-click adventures—but for those who have an enduring love of adventure and riddles, it could become a new favorite.
Carli Velocci is a freelance journalist in Boston, Massachusetts. She has written for DigBoston and Gameranx and isn’t afraid of anything. You can find her on Twitter @revierypone.