"Jerry, do you remember what I told you?"
"...nothing is impossible?"
"And soon it will no longer sound like a question when you say it."
Daedalic's new adventure, The Night Of The Rabbit , isn't exactly the kind that sets out to recreate the genre. It's more... oh... the point and click equivalent of slipping into a nice warm bath. Traditional down to the tips of its paws and whiskers, the slice of the game I've played is a thing of charm and quiet beauty. In time, it likely turns into a story with drama and darkness and saving the universe. For the early section I explored, it's simply a bright summer jaunt in a world with a little magic left to discover.
"You're Jeremiah, a 10 year old would-be magician who sounds like a child but doesn't quite talk like one."
You're Jeremiah, a 10 year old would-be magician who sounds like a child but doesn't quite talk like one, bemoaning the end of the summer holidays. He lives in a small house in a wood scattered with fairy mushrooms and carved rock animals that hints real fairies and mystery may still twinkle somewhere within, though for now, the biggest surprise is that they're actually just a little patch of unspoiled magic with a view out onto a grubby, grey expanse of supermarkets and apartments. It's almost a reversal of Miyazaki style - a wrong road taken sending unwary travellers stumbling into the real world.
For now though, there may not be much fantasy, but there is magic - at least, the magic of the world seen through the eyes of a small boy with an active imagination. There's talk of crows, which might just be a concern for the farm on which Jeremiah lives, but which are brought up just a few too many times for that. There's the Owl Wall that separates the two figurative worlds. And then there's the radio, which may or may not just be a joke, but manages to get a laugh out of an interface tutorial by framing it as morning calisthenics, complete with instructions like "Imagine a mouse pointer. Move it to the radio..."
"This summons the Marquis de Hoto, a smooth talking giant rabbit"
What's not imagined though is a mysterious letter, which literally appears out of thin air with instructions for a ritual involving chalk and black powder and carrot. This summons the Marquis de Hoto, a smooth talking giant rabbit who knows everything about Jeremiah, and invites him to become his apprentice. There's a certain Doctor Who vibe to it, though instead of travelling through time, the rabbit steps between worlds through trees that go deep enough to connect the universe together. Through this one, the woods look the same, but the town that was once a McDonalds life support system is now a village of adorable talking mice where a magician's apprentice can earn his stripes with nobody making jokes about him stealing Professor Layton's spare hat. And, apparently, be home before dinner.
"One puzzle involves making a leprechaun smash himself in the face with a rake"
Playing the preview code - just the start of the game - it's tough to guess how things will progress. It's extremely slow moving, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. Jeremiah reacts to the world with cheer and a smile, and an endearing sense of childlike adventure. This isn't an all-out comedy, though it does have its jokes and a generally amusing attitude, from Jeremiah's obsession with fictional animals to suddenly randomly complaining in a conversation that nobody ever seems to ask him any questions.
The beautiful environments are also helped by a number of little details, like the way locations are simply marked as ??? until visited, and the hint system/object spotting hotkeys are in-game magic spell that only get handed out when the Marquis introduces Jeremiah to his new world. It doesn't hurt either that while the world is cute enough to be potentially dangerous to diabetics, up to and including having a town called "Mousewood", there are hints of darker things to follow - not least that one puzzle involves making a leprechaun smash himself in the face with a rake, followed by trashing his house.
And of course, both rabbits and marquises do have a tendency to be tricksters...
Night of the Rabbit is due out at the end of May, and these are the boring jokes people will use when it does: "Hare Raising Adventure", "the characters rabbit on", "we didn't encounter Bugs". Zzz. For more info, check out the official homepage. It feels like a game that's primarily going to appeal to old-school adventurers in search of a mild challenge rather than draw a whole new crowd, but with no little amount of style or artistry ready for anyone who cares to drop in for this trip down the rabbit hole.