The Night of the Rabbit
Poor Jerry Hazelnut. The 12-year-old only has a few days of his summer vacation left, and then it’s back to the grind of school. Hazelnut will soon learn that time is relative, however, as he embarks on a magical journey with a mysterious talking rabbit.
This point-and-click adventure game from German developer Daedalic Entertainment blends stunning original art with tried-and-true gameplay, served up with a tantalizing premise.
A magician looks at a glowing tree mournfully, saying that he was unable to help his apprentice during his time of need. The screen flashes white and then I am in control of a dapper humanoid rabbit in the middle of a weird, fog-shrouded area. The only other character on screen is a bizarre scarecrow-like being who speaks vaguely of the rabbit forgetting his story and losing his voice. It’s an unsettling beginning, especially when contrasted with what happens next.
Jerry dreams of being a magician, and his daydreaming-prone personality helps sell the first few minutes. We shatter the fourth wall together, getting a lesson on the game’s point-and-click interface and how he can interact with his world. Our first task is to gather some blackberries for his mother, so he can have pie with dinner. Sounds great! We wander around his yard, rummaging through the garden and navigating through the nearby forest and paths.
There’s something infectiously fun about exploring these seemingly mundane locations. Jerry’s a great guide, with an equally impressive imagination. There are clues dropped here and there that summer vacation isn’t the only thing that’s running out of time, however. Jerry seems to be in that transitional period where he’s letting go of his childhood and starting to see things as they are, and not necessarily as he might hope that they could be. Fortunately, there’s still a little magic left in the world.
Jerry summons the rabbit (actual name: Marquis de Hoto), and is quickly told that he needs to learn the ways of magic. It’s going to take some time, however, but de Hoto isn’t concerned. Like a long-eared version of the Cat in the Hat, de Soto says he’ll have the boy home in time for dinner, even though it’ll seem as though much more time has passed. Unfortunately, that’s where my time with the game ended.
We’re in the midst of an adventure-game revival, but Daedalic doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned with reinventing the genre. It’s unabashedly old-school in its design, which can be seen as a positive or negative. Interactive elements and objects can blend into the scenery, turning the game into a classic pixel hunt. Unless you’re swirling your mouse around in circles, for instance, you might not notice a relatively small stick on the forest floor. And considering that the stick is key to solving three of the game’s early puzzles, you need to be constantly on alert.
If those first puzzles are any indication, players can expect to work through a few tricky challenges. Like most adventure-game fans, I enjoy those “aha!” moments that accompany figuring out solutions. There were a few times in the starting hour where I knew exactly what needed to be done, but I wasn’t clicking on the precise area to make it happen. Hopefully, those were just anomalies; good puzzles don’t need to be further obscured by a game’s interface.
The Night of the Rabbit is an undeniably gorgeous game, actually living up to the “It looks like a storybook” descriptor that is so commonly thrown around. I’ll need to spend more time with it to see if the puzzles hold up throughout the story, but my interest is piqued enough to want to give it a try. Look for the game on PC and Mac on May 29.