"A beginning smells like the air in spring and the hope for more." With this sentence, which captures the spirit of the game perfectly, you are whisked off on a wonderful adventure alongside Jeremiah Hazelnut - wizard's apprentice and his teacher, the mysterious Marquis de Hoto.
The Night of the Rabbit is an unassuming, quaint display of the popular point-and-click adventure game genre with an ingredient that places it head and shoulders above the majority: charm. It seems appropriate that something exploring and celebrating the light and shade of magic should be capable of captivating its audience in a way that shouldn't be possible.
Your time with Jerry begins outside his quaint house in the countryside, birds chirping somewhere in the distance, the faint rustle of the leaves moving in the summer breeze and the knowledge that there are two whole days before the end of school holidays instill a buzz of excitement in the heart.
A warm voice on the radio takes you through the basics of the game, in a very cleverly disguised tutorial that made me chuckle from the get go. Even at the early stages you should carefully listen to the conversations, and pay attention to your surroundings, because everything is relevant, whether it be five minutes down the line, or much further on in the game.
After helping Jerry collect some blackberries for his mum's famous, super-tasty blackberry pie (of which he is getting the first and biggest piece of course) you will find yourself with a mysterious task at hand, which results in meeting the spiffingly-clothed Marquis de Hoto. This charismatic rabbit explains that he is a magician, and would like to take Jerry on as his apprentice. To accomplish this honour though, he must complete his magical training in Mousewood, so with the promise of being home before dinner, off you go, and the real adventure begins.
By means of a tree portal, they arrive in Mousewood, where Jerry is now the size of a mouse. It is here that you meet the lovable residents and become involved in their lives, aiding them and learning all about their history; all the while becoming closer and closer to your title as Magician's Apprentice, or 'Treewalker'.
The pacing of The Night of the Rabbit could at first appear to be a little slow, like a gentle perambulation around the park, but as you advance through the game it becomes apparent that this is, in fact, an ingeniously used device which allows the plot to creep up on you. It is only when you look back that you realise that subtle signs are there, from the very beginning even, and everything that has taken place in the meantime is actually very important. It is very rare to come across such a complexly imagined plot that is presented in such a simple and easy to follow way.
I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful this story is. The tale of Jeremiah Hazelnut and his adventures in, not just Mousewood, but other strange lands was never predictable, often hilarious and the emotional content was elegantly handled; it certainly pulled on my heartstrings and brought a tear to my eye.
Where many point-and-click adventure games might struggle is down that road of replayability, and a really strong plot is needed if it is intended to ever be played again. This is definitely not a problem for The Night of the Rabbit, it will be one I come back to regularly. Also Daedalic Entertainment have included a couple of nice features to get you spending extra time in Mousewood. A card game called Quartets, which is basically a version of Go Fish can be mastered, and exquisitely-drawn cards can be collected by duelling Mousewood inhabitants.
Alongside this there are lots of things to collect for those with a keen eye for detail, so there's a lot to keep you entertained long after the main plot is over.
The hand drawn artwork of the different scenes you encounter is just incredible, and as you transition between day and night you will notice how much effort has gone into making everything perfect. From the tiny shamrock on a balding leprechaun's head to the tiny dandelion seeds floating past in the wind, it truly is bewitching to behold.
The sound too, has obviously been meticulously produced to impressive effect. The lonely violin and mesmerizing sound of the flute, which make up the majority of the music, whisk you to the countryside, reminiscent of Howard Shore's award-winning score for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, notably the themes representing Rohan.
When it comes to audio other than music, like voice-acting, the bar is once again set incredibly high. Each character is the perfect embodiment of their voice, it's almost as though the mice and squirrels were built around the sound of the voices, rather than a voice matched to the look. Maybe I'm just partial to a pristine British accent, but in my opinion this is some of the best voice acting I have experienced across the entertainment industry .
The combination of utterly convincing voice-acting and impeccably presented environments have that highly-sought-after effect of transporting you to another realm. You know, when you play a game so good you forget that there is a real world out there, you lose all track of time and suddenly remember you haven't eaten yet? Yeah, it's that.
The Night of the Rabbit manages to achieve a lot in its course, and even with the accomplishments I've listed above, there's more to the game; relevancy. That's right, issues like environmentalism, commercialism and questions of morality interweave into the plot subtly but poignantly and these themes really hit home and, more excitingly, pave the way for a potential sequel.
It's not often that bold statements like "this is my favourite game" make their way into my reviews, but I think I can quite happily say this is my game of the year so far, and easily makes it into my top ten games of all time. With that in mind, I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good story, especially adventure game fans. This is an unmissable experience.
The Night of the Rabbit (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
It's not often that bold statements like "this is my favourite game" make their way into my reviews, but I think I can quite happily say this is my game of the year so far, and easily makes it into my top ten games of all time. With that in mind, I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good story, especially adventure game fans.