Great moments in PC gaming: Playing bass badly in Night in the Woods

(Image credit: Finji)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Night in the Woods

(Image credit: Finji)

Year: 2017
Developer: Infinite Fall

Rhythm games are all about the flow state. When you're in tune with the music, straight vibing, everything feels great. As soon as you hit a bum note, there's a jarring CLANG and some screen-shake, and you're not in the flow any more. Maybe you even have to do the whole thing over to work your way back into the state you've been rudely ejected from.

That's not a problem in Night in the Woods. Here, the rhythm minigame is a side element of the main game, which is a small-town mystery adventure where you're a bass-playing college dropout named Mae who also happens to be a cat (but then canonically so are Shonen Knife, just roll with it). The stakes are low, and that changes everything.

Playing bass with your high school friends is a way of reconnecting with them, but in the time you've been away they've written a bunch of new songs with names like Pumpkin Head Guy. You only have to hit four buttons to play along, but it can still get prickly, especially since you the player have never heard these songs. Thing is, Mae's never heard them either. When you beef it you're beefing it in-character.

In most stories about someone coming back to their hometown after time away, they're the one that's changed while everything stays exactly the same in familiar hokey countryville. Night in the Woods is the opposite. Mae hasn't grown up at all, but the town has altered. People are going missing and there's a whole weird mystery to uncover, the Food Donkey grocery store closed down, and her friends all have jobs and plans for the future. You're out of sync with this place and these people, and their new songs.

Like I said, the stakes are low, though. This is just a jam with friends. When you screw up in other rhythm games you get booed off stage or a space beetle dies. When you screw up in Night in the Woods, you're roleplaying. It would be weirder if you got all the notes right.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.