The Night of the Rabbit review
The Good:

Novel premise that leverages a young boy’s imagination to enliven a fabled world; mostly practical, engaging quests; intelligent, charming hero; superb voice acting, especially for Jerry; gorgeous graphics and animation.

The Bad:

Increasingly esoteric story with lengthy expositions and boring villains; some tasks are obscure and unintuitive; unsophisticated gameplay mechanisms; quite a few production glitches; anticlimactic finale.

Our Verdict:

Buoyed by the endearing performance of young Jerry Hazelnut, the beautiful, fantastical Night of the Rabbit rises above its shortcomings to celebrate camaraderie, courage and hope in the face of overwhelming odds.

It all starts with a strange glade, a legendary tree, a figure dressed in black, and a traveler's case. As a tall rabbit in a tailcoat seeks his way through misty forest paths, a grim voiceover laments the imminent crisis. The ominous prologue then cuts to young Jeremiah Hazelnut's cozy bedroom as he's tucked in for the night by his mother. Neither notices the shadow outside his window, watching them surreptitiously. The morning after is bright and sunny, just the way our hero prefers his summer vacation, and he gets right on with making the most of it. On the agenda: a jaunt into the nearby woods, a place of local legend that sets his considerable imagination afire. It's Jerry's dream to be a famous magician, so when he finds a note with instructions for a magic trick, his interest is easily piqued. Gathering items for the trick is the first major quest of The Night of the Rabbit, and soon Jerry is the proud inheritor of a trunk of junk of the magician Zaroff. A bunny does pop out of the top hat here, but it's a visibly unsettling, red-eyed specimen named the Marquis De Hoto, who promises to teach Jerry the art of the arts if only he will step through the magical portal to Mousewood. Jerry is quick to don the hat and wield the wand, and agrees to follow the Marquis, on one condition – that he's back home in time for dinner.

Thus begins Jerry's expedition through the miniature town of Mousewood, home to little people like mice, squirrels, frogs, moles, hares, hedgehogs, and even a suslik. Daedalic Entertainment's latest über-attractive point-and-click opus unfurls on a stunning two-dimensional canvas as if a storybook has come alive, and features superbly-voiced, well-etched characters who strive valiantly to match the laidback charisma and irrepressible joie-de-vivre of its young protagonist as he traipses through a wonderland of anthropomorphic citizens and super-sized household objects. Practical and engaging inventory quests keep the action chugging along for the most part despite the less-than-efficient, and sometimes inconsistent, gameplay mechanisms, and the 8-10 hour journey is lightened by some crisp banter and a moody soundtrack led by a soulful main theme. But though the vibrant colours and dressed-up critters make the game look like child's play, it's not. Some objectives are obscure to the point of frustrating, set in the old-school logic that it's not an adventure if you aren't tearing your hair out, while the overarching themes – and even Jerry himself – are anything but childish.

The longer you play, unfortunately, the more the game becomes insecure in its own charm and tries to ramp up the stakes by progressively – and unnecessarily – complicating the story. Characters start spewing esoteric mumbo-jumbo as the plot bounces around disparate topics like the power of dreams and hope, environmental missteps, unfettered personal corruption, the traumatic social failures of its villains, and a Hazelnut family secret that even Jerry didn't know about. What starts as a straightforward crisis – someone is wreaking havoc on Mousewood, presumably to evict its denizens and take it over – devolves into sub-plots about pseudo-intellectual existential issues. It saps the exuberance of Jerry and his crew, pitches the player into bewilderment, and even waters down the gameplay by foisting token new locations with a couple of quests each. Then it all ends with a whimper: the climactic confrontation involves a shockingly puerile colour-matching minigame, and a visually dramatic but essentially blah cutscene explains why of it all. The last quarter of the game also appears hastily produced, with buggy animation, dialogues tripping over each other, and even some plain black screens with text.

Though the game eventually spirals out of control somewhat, that doesn't undo all the good established to that point. While never specified, the setting appears to be mid-twentieth century: Jerry's trousers are held up by suspenders, his mother wears a red polka-dotted bell skirt as she bakes pies and hangs laundry outside, and the rural landscape is being devoured by a fast-expanding modern city. Twelve-year-old Jerry possesses the innocence of boys his age of that time; he is smart and inquisitive, but respectful and obedient, with a strong sense of right and wrong. That's not to say that he's a goody-goody. The thought of going back to school in a couple of days wilts even his indomitable spirit, and mischief sparks often in his eyes, sometimes even accompanied by diabolical laughter. But at the core, he's a good boy, averse to lies and littering, and ever-ready to challenge any claims that he feels are unrealistic or unwarranted. In fact, his boyish mix of nonchalance and bravado makes him a great foil for the theatrical Marquis, and it's amusing to see smug adults stumble when confronted with Jerry's matter-of-fact observations.

Jerry enjoys the hyperactive virtual world in his head, a domain rife with fantastic events and infiltrated by the terrible gremlinwolf. His peers view his overactive imagination as weird, but he is undaunted by their criticism, and this very quality allows him to wholly embrace the nonhuman world of Mousewood. His acceptance of the simplistic desires and worries of the critters feels natural; there are no smart-assy jibes and judgments about any creature, which is truly refreshing for an adventure game hero. But Jerry's biggest asset is that he's aware of his own fears and limitations, be it venturing into the woods after dark or missing his mother after many arduous days in Mousewood. It's at these moments, when he pulls himself together and returns to his demanding tasks, that his spirit really shines through, and multiplies your investment in his success.

So when Jerry walks into the town built amidst the roots of an ancient tree, complete with a babbling brook and a café, and is shrunk to the size of the local critters, he keeps calm and carries on with his to-do list. His main objective is to prepare for a festival to be held at the end of his training by arranging for cakes and drinks, and sending out invitations to the townsfolk. Naturally, this is almost impossibly more complicated a quest than it sounds, because everyone is preoccupied with their own worries. Strange events have besieged the town: crows are abducting locals; it's snowing in some areas in mid-summer while other places are flooded; suspicious humanoids are lurking in corners muttering gibberish about change, and blue juice, the crowd favourite, is out of stock. Besides helping the locals, Jerry has to find four portals, beyond which lie the sources of the four spells he has to learn to complete his training.

Mousewood has its own town hall, radio station and infantry. Pint-sized mice guard its walls with peashooter cannons, and it has an extensive mail delivery system that later serves as a means for Jerry to move around town. It's also one of those rare places where dwarves are the tallest residents. Most of Mousewood is available to explore right from the start, with characters and quests spread all across it. For the most part, backtracking must be done screen-by-screen, which slows things down even with one-click exits. But the supposedly convenient postal service alternative involves many clicks and isn't very practical unless the destination is on the other side of town. Inactive areas are cordoned off by Jerry refusing to visit them without reason, or by mechanical barriers which must be removed by completing other tasks. The first half of the game takes place during the day; later quests are divided between day and night based on (sort of) rational considerations. Jerry can shift between the two by either reading an incredibly exciting book that makes him lose track of time, or by taking naps at pre-ordained locations.

Gameplay instructions are provided by a chatty radio host who introduces Jerry to the joys of morning calisthenics. Brightened by spontaneous verbal sparring between the duo, this optional tutorial segment tells us that there is only one button to rule it all. And indeed, the leaf-shaped cursor lets you either look at or use an object, or talk to someone with just a single click. Most screens have only a few usable hotspots, and despite the intricately detailed backgrounds, the interactive items are usually easy to pick out. Once activated, Jerry's trick coin can point out hotspots too; all you need to do is peek through it (or press the spacebar). Doing so also reveals the presence of invisible characters. Hotspots aren't always deactivated when exhausted, resulting in confusion and extra clicks, which can be doubly annoying as each click brings up the entire – usually lengthy – descriptive dialogue associated with that item.

Jerry's backpack serves as the inventory. Collected objects can be used with each other or onscreen items, and sometimes dismantled into useful parts. Right-clicking inventory objects has Jerry describe them, often with anecdotes of his experiences with similar items. The non-linear quests have him frequently toting about a dozen-plus odds and ends, which can frustrate during the vaguer tasks which demand matching everything with everything else in the hope that something will click. Objects cannot be combined out of order or if the need hasn't arisen. The advice button to 'phone' the Marquis for hints is useless, since the rabbit merely reminds Jerry of his ultimate objectives, totally ignoring his current quandary. A journal lists key milestones and Jerry's agenda, and does help a bit by giving (very cryptic) clues in the wording.

For each of the four levels of training he completes, Jerry earns a spell that grants him a supernatural skill, like the ability to decipher the language of rocks. They occupy special slots in the inventory, and are cast by clicking their icon on the target object. But for a game premised on magic, these spells seem grossly underutilised, being cast just once or twice each, and as such are relegated to being also-haves in the inventory to be considered when all else fails. They are even left out of the final conflict, which might have been redeemed by the actual use of magic.

Continued on the next page...



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Game Info

Night of the Rabbit,The

Platform:
Mac, PC

Genre:
Fantasy

Developer:
Daedalic Entertainment


Game Page »

Digital May 28 2013 Daedalic Entertainment

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User Score

Average based on 26 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by jvillajos on Jan 11, 2014

master piece

great game, that has not been recognize like it deserves. please dont miss it... Read the review »

Posted by Houie on Dec 23, 2013

Strange story, great puzzles, great sound, great graphics

20 hrs Great clean fantasy game. Another winner from Daedalic. Not quite as thought provoking or humorous as The Whispered World though.... Read the review »

Posted by PadanFain on Jun 2, 2013

Flimsy story and Too Much Puzzles

A big fan of Daedalic I am, and I always expect their games to have a cinematic, story-driven approach. However, this game takes the... Read the review »

Posted by MasterPro on May 29, 2013

Good game!

Love Daedalic games and story line. Buy It!... Read the review »



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About the Author
gamrgrl's avatar
Shuva Raha
Staff Writer

Comments

Britgamer
Jun 3, 2013

I don’t want to jinx it by saying it, but could this game overcome the German to English translation curse?
Seems like EVERY game translated from a great German adventure has REALLY bad and wooden voice actors, this one looks really cool though, anyone else agree?

Hanged
Jun 3, 2013

Since when is increasingly esoteric story “The Bad”? The part with the whale was actually pretty awesome (at least for the ones of us who, you know, have a soul), and much of the “esoteric mumbo jumbo” was what made the game interesting for me. The more mystical and epic moments were mostly well written, creative and atmospheric, and generally much more engaging than the rather draggy and mundane first half.

Also, the word “pseudo-intellectual” has long become synonymous with “I didn’t get it and I intend to be snotty about it”. Some of us like a bit of dreamy metaphysics with our gaming - what exactly makes it “pseudo”?

That said, it’s true that the story gets very convoluted and messy towards the end, dumping a load of unforeshadowed, non-interactive backstory on the player all at once. It made me wonder why I spent all those long draggy hours sending party invitations and curing dwarf cold just to have all the important stuff explained to me in a rushed cutscene at the end. But that’s just bad plotting, not bad concept and definitely not “mumbo jumbo”. The execution is lacking, but I admire the ambition and ideas behind it.

Not to be overly negative, I very much agree with your description of the main character - It is indeed refreshing to have a protagonist who isn’t a sarcastic dick for once. Cheers!

Jackal Jackal
Jun 3, 2013

The nine-word bullet point you somehow still took out of context says: “Increasingly esoteric story with lengthy expositions and boring villains”. I’d imagine an increasingly esoteric story with excellent show-don’t-tell implementation and compelling villains would have been much better received. That is the reviewer’s criticism, which you obviously agree with.

I can’t speak for Night of the Rabbit, but I’ve read tons of pseudo-intellectual nonsense that is fully deserving of its label. Although I much prefer the equally-snotty “claptrap” over “mumbo jumbo” to describe it.

PadanFain
Jun 3, 2013

It was an OK game, but a far cry from Daedalic’s other games, which are masterpieces.
Too many puzzles, flimsy story and pacing.

While playing the Rabbit, I always had this distinct feeling that I was indeed playing a game. There were too many tidbits that dragged me out of my suspension of disbelief. A true adventure game should offer an experience, should make the world and the characters feel alive. That’s what adventure is all about. This one doesn’t do those things.

The second half definitely had better, more interesting moments. But entirely too much unnecessary exposition.

Dag Dag
Jun 3, 2013

I’m loving this game, it has it’s shortcomings, but for me this is the most enjoyable adventure so far this year. I hope I won’t dislike the ending as much as the reviewer.

Hanged
Jun 3, 2013

jackal: The way I see it, even the whole bullet point still suggests the same thing - that “increasingly esoteric” is something bad.  Otherwise, why not just write “lenghty expositions and boring villains”, if that’s what the real problem is? I didn’t mean to take it out of context, I merely quoted the only part that bothered me. Incidentally, I didn’t think the villains were notably boring (although they weren’t particularly interesting either), but it’s an opinion I have no problem with.

As for the claptrap thing, alright, I guess we all tend to be dismissive like that sometimes - sure there is a lot of mumbo jumbo out there. But personally I try to stop myself before I spout this kind of judgement. Because it’s cheap. You can stamp it on anything you didn’t understand to feel intellectually superior, when actually you’re the exact opposite. I’m not saying this is the case of the reviewer - here it seems to be more a matter of personal taste and the lack of a certain pensive/sentimental bone you need to appreciate this kind of stories.

gamrgrl gamrgrl
Jun 3, 2013

@Britgamer: You’ll be delighted to know that the English localisation of this game is flawless. The language flows naturally and does not feel like Google Translate cut-pastes, there is no lost-in-translation awkwardness or non-colloquial sentence construction, and the voice acting has been done by native English speakers, so the accents and fluency are all authentic. Voice acting is in fact one of the biggest assets of this game.

@Hanged: Jack has already answered, but in general: intellectualism becomes pseudo when it’s for the heck of it. I’m all for the ‘deeper meaning of things’, but not when it’s neither particularly related to what has been going on already, nor delivered gracefully. The mysticism here wasn’t literally incomprehensible; it felt tacked on.

Also, the whale part: this is the second game I’ve played in the past few months that has a bitter, borderline senile female activist parked out on a polar icecap - the other being The Critter Chronicles. It seems to be a fashion, then, to parody this genre of environmental crusaders. I’m neither a feminist nor an activist, but to me this feels like a cheap shot, prettified with a flash of aurora borealis, and a whale here, penguins there. At least Critter… integrated the activist (a little bit) more coherently into the plot.

Iznogood Iznogood
Jun 4, 2013

I haven’t gotten very far in the game yet, but from what i have played it seems like this review is spot-on.

Sefir Sefir
Jun 4, 2013

@Dag:Totally agree! I’m still at the beggining, but, for the moment, it is by far the most enjoying game of 2013. I’m also kind of intrigued as far the ending is concerned. The negative comments of the review combined with the fact that Daedelic is famed for its great endings (see: The Whispered World, Edna&Harvey; or Chains of Satinav)makes me think that it is completely in the eye of the beholder if we’ll like it or not…

UruBoo
Jun 9, 2013

It’s a so-so game. It still contains a bunch of non-logical puzzles, as Daedalic use to do often. Funny but not the game I could replay in a while. And if you get the 8 audio “bonus” stuff, be prepare for at least 6 or plus hours of blabbing… I would give a 2,5 stars for it.



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