Preview: The Night of the Rabbit

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At one stage, the classic point-and-click adventure game had seemingly taken a hiatus on its home platform, the PC. If you ask anyone who enjoys these games what their favourite five are in the genre, then you’ll probably get answers consisting of one of the following: Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Broken Sword, The Longest Journey or Day of the Tentacle. It’s been said that the genre has been dead for a while and has only gotten back to its stride within the last year, all thanks to The Walking Dead, but I believe the genre re-established itself on the PC before that – you just had to look deep for the good titles, rather than having the big hitters pushed to the forefront in the media.

Daedalic Entertainment has been developing and publishing some worthy adventure games for the past few years, including such titles as Deponia, The Whispered World and The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav. The company is back with more point-and-click goodness with The Night of the Rabbit, a wonderful looking title created by Matthias Kempke that involves, well, a rabbit. I got to personally spend a little time with the game and play through one sixth of the content that will be offered for its release at the end of May.

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The story revolves around a young boy called Jeremiah Hazelnut, who, along with loving his mum’s amazing blackberry pie (he always wants the first and biggest slice), has a huge interest in the world of magic and would love to become a magician one day. It’s a delightful sunny day at the beginning of the game and there are only two days left of Jeremiah’s holiday before he has to go back to school. He wants an adventure before his return to the boring world of education, and that’s what he discovers when he receives a strange letter with a spell that summons a magician called Marquis de Hoto; but he isn’t any old magician – he’s a humanoid rabbit. Mr. Hoto offers Jeremiah the chance to learn magic, an offer than Jeremiah simply cannot refuse. So he takes the rabbit’s top hat, wears it smartly, and then is warped to the small village of Mousewood to become a magician’s apprentice, which as you can probably guess, is the home of mice. Now both Marquis and Jeremiah are the same size as the cute little rodents, and this where the adventure really begins for little Jerry.

On first impressions with The Night of the Rabbit, what mainly struck me were the visuals – they are a thing of beauty. All these lovely environments and characters are completely hand-drawn and stand out due to the sharpness of the art. Wandering into a new environment is met with excitement, seeing if the artist can still keep the surroundings looking enchanted and alive with fairy-like charm. Its aesthetics remind me of an old cartoon or children’s book that has sprung to life from a magical painting. Since the game only consists of this gorgeous 2D art, it means the requirements are at a low bar for entry, so a PC from the past eight years could run this no problem.

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Visuals can only get you so far in an adventure game. The genre is built upon the intuitive blend of puzzles situated in the game’s world, how appealing its characters are and how interesting the story is. The Night of the Rabbit seems to be stepping in the right direction from the early hours of the game. The first major puzzle is to create a portal that summons Mr. Hoto, which involves hunting down items placed around three areas of the game: Jeremiah’s home and garden, the forest, and a section that goes deeper into the forest that features a small stream. The game feeds you tips from the letter on how to create this potion, but it’s done in a way that isn’t too challenging but also is not spoon-fed to players – there’s a little experimentation to solving puzzles.

After the first puzzle is over, Jeremiah receives a special coin that acts as the game’s way of giving the player hints. Space Bar activates this coin, and everything that is interactive in that area will tingle with a multi-coloured flicker. It helps distinguish what you can click on, as I found some objects weren’t clear to see without this little magic trick. The coin can also be used to reveal hidden objects, such as one example where Jeremiah reveals that there is someone standing behind a mouse but nothing is visible to the naked eye. Whip out the coin and all is revealed.

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It’s a neat idea to blend the hint system into a real gameplay mechanic, but it’s a shame that the journal isn’t as effective as it should be. I feel it doesn’t note down enough information about the tasks. One example is right at the beginning of the game when you are trying to build the Carrot Flame. The letter explains the ingredients and what you need to do, but none of that is jotted down in the journal. To remember it, you either have to write it down on a physical piece of paper, or click and repeat the dialogue until you see what was missing or was required next. It’s a little tedious having to do it for the more demanding puzzles. Jeremiah also gets access to a wand that will allow him to speak to the magical rabbit to gain hints on what to do next. This may be because this is a preview and is the early part of the game, but this did nothing at all to help me; it instead just repeated the same dialogue of getting the party ready for Jeremiah’s magician initiation. I have been told more spells become available later on.

Voice acting is present for all the characters that I’ve interacted with so far, and, above all else, isn’t irritating like a couple of other game protagonists have been in the genre – although, there are some delays between dialogue speech that spoils the overall presentation. Acting can also be overdramatized on some characters, but in a way, this twists with the idea that The Night of the Rabbit could be a children’s animation and undoubtedly strives for the same kind of jesting dialogue. It’s charming. Jeremiah is a happy kid that isn’t full of himself, and the rabbit, Marquis, has a mystique about him that makes it intriguing to see what he’s really up to.

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The Night of the Rabbit is leading the story somewhere curious. Maybe something a little sinister is going on in the background of the plot, as I am still not sure what the very start of the game was hinting at with Marquis and an unknown woodsprite entity. Whatever it is, I’m excited to carry on with the magical adventure of Jeremiah and Marquis, with none of the small complaints being enough to put me off the game. If you’re a fan of the genre and are looking for some old-school, point-and-click fun, then The Night of the Rabbit seems to be on the right track to deliver a competent adventure.

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