The Night of The Rabbit – Preview
Before I start this next trick, I’d like the audience to first see that there’s nothing up my sleeves, nothing in my pockets, and nothing in my hat. Now, watch as I make a preview magically appear! All we need to do is close our eyes, count to three, and have my editors utter the immortal words “hurry up and get on with it, Ed”. Now behold! Below you now lies a preview for the similarly magical The Night of the Rabbit! Shazam!
Bought to you by Daedalic Entertainment – the same point and click maestros that bought us A New Beginning, both Edna and Harvey titles and the Deponia series – The Night of the Rabbit (formerly known as “The Rabbit’s Apprentice: Under The Spell of Zaroff”) tells the story of Jeremiah Hazelnut, a boy with two days until his summer vacation is over. Jerry also spends every night wishing that he can become a magician, unaware that as he does so he’s watched by a pair of glowing red eyes. However, as he helps his mother make some delicious blackcurrant pie, his mailbox is accosted by a mystical letter that introduces him to the Marquis De Hoto, an enigmatic magician who promises to train Jerry in the art of magic and also happens to be a giant anthropomorphic rabbit. Soon Jerry is whisked away to Mousewood, an alternative world where he’s shrunk down to the size of a mouse and time moves more slowly than in the real world, with the Marquis promising that he’ll be home by the time he needs to go back to school.
The tone of The Night of the Rabbit is an altogether more fantastic one than in other Daedalic titles, with the opening stages far more in the vein of a traditional adventure than the often subversive comic tones that the company is known for. This comes down to the fact it’s not written by Deponia and Edna and Harvey creator Jan Muller-Michaelis (or ‘Poki’) but Matthias Kempke, and, as such, feels far more like a tribute to the point and clicks of old rather than a send up of them. That’s not to say that it’s sorely lacking in humour, but it’s less of a focal point than you’d expect. There were several moments throughout where I found myself laughing – with the fourth wall breaking tutorial masquerading as a radio show’s morning routine one of the most blatant – but the action instead hinges on the adventures of Jerry more than it does out and out laughs.
In fact, the first thing I really noticed about Night of the Rabbit was just how breathtakingly beautiful it was. Every single screen is a piece of art worthy of being put up in a museum, and the amount of love and attention given makes everything almost come to life. Both Jerry’s world and that of Mousewood are bewitching, and though they don’t have the same memorable aesthetic as the Deponia series, it takes the fantasy setting and absolutely makes it its own. It’s not quite something I can put into words and it’s difficult to convey just how much I love the graphics without simply holding your head, pointing at screen-shots and going “Look! Look! It’s so pretty! Look at how pretty it is!”
The Night of the Rabbit is more than just a pretty face though, and it does plenty to make its mark on the point and click genre. For one, its inventory screen is a translucent bubble, allowing players to still be able to see what’s going on whenever they want to use an item. In its application it feels like a complete no-brainer, but it’s such a comfortable change that it makes you wonder how so few other titles have thought of it before. Within the inventory bubble you can also combine your items, and later on in the story you can activate spells, but in the meantime you can also use your magic coin, look in Jerry’s journal or check your current achievements. Within the bubble, and indeed throughout the story, your cursor will show an image of the verb that will be utilised when you click on the object you’re currently hovering over, though it will split into two if there are two different possible actions, with one being handled by the left click and the other handled by the right. It’s a useful way of using and examining items in greater detail, with some hints being provided if you’re willing to take the time to look or attempt combinations.
While the preview only allowed me to get to grips with one spell, it did let me get accustomed with Jerry’s magic coin. The narrative conceit is that through the use of magical iridescence it allows Jerry to see the world in a different view by looking through the hole in the middle of it. In short, its purpose is to reveal all of the hotspots in the area, but there’s now an in-story justification to have such a tool, justifying it as part of the action rather than a way to break immersion. While Jerry’s journal doesn’t have such a narrative importance, it may prove to be more useful to some players than others. As the story builds, there’ll be more than one task to keep track of, and so the journal can be used to remind you of previous events and let you know the tasks you still have to complete, so if you get stuck on a particular puzzle you can always try and do something else until you come across the solution.
When you’re done with the journal you can always look at your Bonus Collection, which will allow you to look at everything you’ve gathered, from cards to audio books and stickers to the industry-standard achievements, with each one divided into four categories: Treewalker, Tracker, Explorer and Golden Boy. By the end of the preview I’d already unlocked one in the Treewalker category for progressing in the story, while the Tracker section seemed to focus more on collecting the aforementioned audio diaries, stickers and cards, as well as dew drops carefully hidden on the screen throughout Mousewood. While the other achievement series weren’t focused on gathering everything, they do look like they’re more about rewarding the player for their actions in the world rather than straight story progression.
To progress through the story players will need to have their thinking caps fastened pretty tightly, as a good deal of the puzzles I came across required a brand of thought that, while logical, can leave you scratching your head if you’re not paying full attention. This can be exacerbated by the fact that Jerry’s coin hasn’t been imbued with magic yet, meaning that the opening puzzles have to be completed without the hotspots key. Similarly, the early spell you’re given is the “advice seeker”, allowing you to communicate with the Marquis de Hoto, but using it just caused him to talk about the overall task Jerry needed to complete, rather than a solution for the specific puzzle I was trying to solve, leading to a lot of repetition as I’d be told the same thing over and over again.
In fact, repetition was Night of the Rabbit’s biggest flaw from the opening hours I’d played; most characters have a series of four or five lines that they seem to repeat after every dialogue option, even if you’re trying to end it, and it makes extended conversations an absolute pain, as the pace is ruined by either the same lines crawling past or your frantic clicking to skip the same bloody lines being spouted at you over and over. The worst part is, most of these repeated lines feel completely superfluous and I don’t understand why they’d be spouted at the end of every dialogue option rather than uttered once then never again. Even using items on objects in the environment results in the same one line per item being spoken time and again, with no variety if the result isn’t the correct one. Though it can be skipped via clicking, the fact that the repetition is so prevalent in the first place is at once confusing and annoying.
This repetition extends to background events; some screens will have other characters performing tasks regardless of your actions, and while their insertion is done to build the world, their actions repeat enough that it ends up on the wrong side of the line. Worse is that they’ll even play while you’re in the middle of a conversation and it serves to interrupt more than it does to add to the world. One example in particular involved an owl rummaging about during the middle of a plot-heavy dialogue, with her actions repeating about five or six times complete with sound effects that were twice the volume and given higher priority than the characters delivering vital exposition and instructions. This same owl then made the preview-ending puzzle almost teeth-gnashingly irritating with her insistence on tweeting every six seconds to the point I had to mute the sound because it was repeating to the point that it actually stopped me being able to concentrate enough to solve the puzzle. It’s an absolutely baffling design decision, and my worry is that if the rest of the story carries on this way with pointless repetition then it’s going to ruin what could otherwise be a fantastic title.
Similarly, without these background events and needlessly looping dialogues, there’s a great cast present in Night of the Rabbit just ready for their moments in the spotlight, from the Hedgehog Brothers who fear they’re being haunted by a little green man to a radio broadcaster who can’t remember his station’s own frequency to my personal favourite Churchmouse, who claims to sell everything you’ll ever want, will want, or will want to have wanted (especially if it involves mud) and wants to leave his business to his conspicuously silent son. Even the titular rabbit remains enigmatic and mysterious, and Jeremiah is a great protagonist who’ll remind plenty of gamers of their younger, more adventurous selves. The only negative I can level at either of the two main characters is that their casting is just slightly off, with the voice actor for the Marquis not quite perfect for the role, and Jeremiah delivering just one too many dodgily-delivered lines to not be occasionally distracting.
With all this in mind, I’m still optimistic for The Night of the Rabbit. Granted, it has a couple of flaws that may prove to aggravate more in the long term than they did in the short, but there are plenty of ideas here – especially in terms of the puzzles – coupled with a fantastic setting and story that in many ways feels like a more traditional point and click or a bygone Disney story bought faultlessly into the present day. It feels like a title that parents will use to tell their children stories before bedtime, and if it can eliminate the pointless repetition and continue to deliver a great cast, clever puzzle design and an interesting story, then this could easily become a point and click to remember.
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