There’s something genuinely special about the imagination of child. The ability to look at the mundane and see something truly extraordinary is a talent that tends to be lost with time and age. The Night of the Rabbit does an excellent job of taking that transcendent sense of wonder and compressing it into a delightful adventure game with only a few pacing issues and illogical puzzles to hold it back.
You play as Jerry Hazelnut, a young boy living on the edge of an old forest that separates his house from a nondescript early-20th-century English city. Jerry Hazelnut’s imagination and thirst for the exciting and the novel lead him on a startling, well-realized quest to explore the nearby woods and uncover the secrets of being a magician. Along his journey he meets a bevy of characters that give life to his adventure. Many of them are shrouded in mystery and harbor ancient secrets of magic and wizardry. Motivations and backgrounds are rarely clear-cut, and more often than not, you won’t know who is really on your side, or just using you as a piece of their own larger plan. This is all set to the backdrop of an ordinary world made extraordinary, and the thematic tension of everything’s dual nature sets the stage for an exceptional tale of intrigue and mystery.
Fantastic art direction is what really draws you in here. For a game like The Night of the Rabbit to be effective, for it to instill in you the same wanderlust that young Hazelnut has, the world itself must be inviting and begging to be poked and prodded by an adventurer. Thankfully, the environments are gloriously detailed and often look like hand-drawn pages from children’s storybooks. Colors are vibrant, lines are heavy but have a subtle sketched look, and the attention to detail is clear throughout. The level of commitment is enough to keep an otherwise hackneyed setting (20th-century England) more than varied enough to have you enthralled for the length of Jerry’s quest–provided that you can get through the rather slow start.
Unfortunately, as inviting as The Night of the Rabbit ultimately becomes, its opening segment is a bit stilted. There’s a fair bit of repetitive and long-winded exposition, and the tutorial is structured as an imaginary interaction between Jerry and a radio. The cartoonish visuals and storybook vibe seem to aim the game squarely at children, but the difficulty of some of the puzzles and the sheer number of characters, items, and details you need to remember keep it from being a guaranteed recommendation for younger players.
The Night of the Rabbit falls into the same trap as many adventure games that have come before it: obtuse puzzles. You need to find very specific sticks, rocks, and tools, and use them in concert with other bits of the environment in a very specific order to progress. In reality, it’s less about solving any real thought problem and more about having the patience to try any number of strange, esoteric combinations of objects to see which ones let you through. For example, during one of the very first segments in the game, you must use one rock to crush another rock on top of a third rock, but the exact order and placement of the three rocks aren’t terribly clear and can result in some confusion. This isn’t universally the case, but a fair portion of the obstacles have a singular solution, and will lead you in circles as you try to figure out which item you need. There are a few tools to keep any given puzzle from being too overwhelming, though. After the introduction, you gain access to an item that highlights everything in the world that you may interact with. This limits your endless clicking and keeps you from wasting an unreasonable amount of time.
Sticking out the occasionally frustrating adventure game tropes, however, is not without its rewards. Jerry and the eponymous rabbit, Marquis, as well as the rest of the cast, are excellent characters with their own unique charms. Throughout the game, bonds are made, twisted, or broken, and each character is well written and believable. Jerry Hazelnut is a boy with little more than a vivid imagination and a dream of becoming a magician. These aspects of Jerry’s character give a great level of meaning and significance to an otherwise common story.
The Night of the Rabbit is a personal story about a boy, his dream and the sinister figures that seek to corrupt him. It’s not in the circuitous puzzles but in the narrative that The Night of the Rabbit really shines, carefully weaving an excellent score, solid voice work, great characters, and terrific art direction together to create something special. By tapping the different understandings of life that come with age and wisdom, this adventure tells a charming tale of curiosity and creativity.