Review | Night Call
MonkeyMoon and Black Muffin have finally launched their game, Night Call. Ready to counter the torrid heat of the summer with the cold rain of a Paris that just doesn’t ever want to sleep? It’s a journey that will go well beyond the standard rate thanks to its hard-boiled soul. Not forgetting to remain anchored to a necessary, well-balanced, and structured realism.
Night Call allows you to choose different cases to play and a selectable difficulty for each of them. All the central nodes tell a unique story and the personalization of their experience meets all types of players. Maybe you’re one of those types who want to test their detective skills with clues and witnesses. Or maybe you’re someone who just want to follow a story and bask in the deep system of dialogue.
Regardless of how you want to lead the game, what awaits you is a story filled with raw tones. The narrative is established only by the dialogue with whom you decide to accommodate in your Taxi. Searching for criminals and murderers is only part of the plot thread that connects the various themes within this game. An example of a particular character who has impressed me was a farmer hired for a reality show, shamed and humiliated by everyone for his racist phrase during the show. He didn’t think so, yet a second of anger was enough to ruin his life. This leads him to place himself in front of the issuer’s headquarters, which had widely snubbed him on the phone.
Through our choices of dialogue, we’ve transformed his anger into bitter sadness. Forcing him to hold his thoughts in his teeth. It had absolutely nothing to do with the case and investigation. Despite this, the history strikes right at the heart for the human way in which it’s told. Describing the emotions through gestures leaked between the lines of dialogue. And it is one of the many vicissitudes that you can experience in Night Call. Along with narratives that speak of racism, terrorism, homophobia, depression and a myriad of other extremely sensitive issues.
The details, the words used and even the slangs are small elements that can communicate effectively. Even without the support of physical gestures or facial expressions of multiple forms. An extremely difficult result to be rendered only with dialogues and which attests to the great writing capacity of the creative team. They succeeded in creating the right system to give depth to the verbal exchanges of the game.
In particular, it’s important to underline how the backstory on terrorism and the discrimination of the Arab population play a central role in the various realities painted by the title. Thus leading us to reflect conscientiously on the geopolitical situation of France and of Europe shaken by terror. Not surprisingly, Paris is the perfect city to reflect precisely how Europeans have changed their perspective and lifestyle after the tragic events of recent years. Especially if one goes to investigate the relationship that the institutions and the police have assumed in against private citizens of ethnic minorities or coming from the slums of the city. A game that therefore has no qualms about being intrinsically political. And that indeed manages to use discontent precisely to characterize the crudeness of its “cast”.
The multitude of stories and situations are important in the cultural context that Night Call tries to paint. The cases at the center of attention will eventually suck you into the highlight of the manhunt. It really puts your intellect and eloquence to the test. In general, the Night Call crime story is rather dilated. You’ll see a good deal of characterization of the characters, experiencing all their qualities. This especially holds true regarding the history of the main suspects and our taxi driver. The latter in fact can emerge only through interaction with the various suspects and the police. Revealing his tormented past and why he continues to act as a mole in a taxi. It also explains his actions in the key events of the game world.
Make a mistake and you’ll be out of the game, leaving many unanswered questions. Then again, that’s the beauty, isn’t it? The truth is not always served on a silver plate. You’ll have to work for it. Immerse yourself in the world of Night Call and absorb its reality, which is much closer than it may appear on your screen. Not surprisingly, the game features multiple endings. To do your duty, all that the game requires you to do is to make decisions. The major interactions take place in two instances. The first is when you find yourself in the taxi, and the second when you leave work to return home.
During your shift, you’ll be asked to choose which customers to take care of based on several factors. The more you welcome key people to the investigation, the more you can get ahead in the central story of Night Call. Despite that, it’s also necessary to go beyond the list of suspects and visit stores or key places for the case. At this point, however, you will have to take into consideration: fuel and money.
Being a taxi driver, you’ll still have to manage your travel costs and take home a profit. Players can do this through the careful selection of routes that are not too expensive in terms of time and fuel. Short rides and accessible routes mean more time for different customers. That means less fuel and more money that will come into your pocket at the end of the evening. Not that it’s possible to become disgustingly rich by being a taxi driver in Paris. Regardless, in Night Call it’s necessary to at least have the money to satisfy your most human needs and buy newspapers from which to draw clues and news. If you are too careless about these aspects, you may seriously jeopardize the progress of your investigation. It’s here that the realism of Night Call becomes more practical.
When you return home, it’s up to you to decide how much to sleep and how to organize the clues. The clues are kindly available from the police or taken in during your chats at work. Here too, time will be tiring and you will have to try to find the right balance between the hours of sleep and the sleepless hours spent analyzing confidential files and photos. The more hours you spend in the investigation, the more you can go on with the case and find VIPs to track down with the Taxi for a ride. At the same time, more sleep will allow you to have more time to investigate the dossiers the next night.
A sleepless night never killed anyone, but a week could be far too much to bear. Night Call sins a bit in the clarity of time limits, leaving you to trudge through the various decisions to understand more or less what the right time is. Nothing upsetting, but it could serve as an obstacle for the less forward-looking and attentive players. This is true especially in the most crucial days for the case.
The rest of the title constitutes itself by the enormous amount of dialogue in which you’ll have to juggle with choices, interactions, and opinions. In every exchange with our interlocutors, it’ll be necessary to be able to understand the mood or the desires of those sitting in the back seat. Trying to induce them into a road of thoughts that leads us to the result we want. Whether it’s a tip or a piece of vital information, we can use this to find the criminal.
The whole system is only based on your understanding to point out the lies. Being the supporting structure of Night Call, we are very happy that it is impeccable in every aspect. Deepening where it should and even finding moments in which to show lightness and comedy. Clearly, there remains a language barrier that could be difficult to overcome for those who do not chew English very well. Especially when there are characters with particular accents and dialects.
The absence of dubbing, also because of the location, is a bit of a shame. Still, given the amount of dialogue and characters, it seems impossible for an independent studio to bear the costs. Night Call counteracts this lack by lingering in its sound effects and various music accompanying the game. The noise of the rain or the engine of the car is renders itself in a realistic way. The background jazz does its job as ambient music. The little variety of compositions and atmospheres, in the long run, can weigh on the enjoyment of the experience.
The excellence of Night Call is present by the dark and dirty aesthetics that it proudly shows off. This lets the characters represent themselves as almost imperceptible figures. The lack of clarity of what the player sees is a perfect example of how to intelligently make a noir atmosphere in a videogame. All this without abusing the shadows and instead exploiting how the “light” interacts with everything on the screen. This gives the true suffused effect that one would expect from the visual sector of this kind. So far, Night Call is perhaps the most faithful independent game to the noir tradition literary. Undermining the American imagination with a breath of fresh air directly from the coldest and most cynical part of France. The only drawback is represented by some small and sporadic technical problems, especially when navigating the simulated map.
Night Call is an exceptional game with very few flaws. Although minimal in its playful and technical system, the narrative potential and unique atmosphere it presents are elements of unquestionable quality. Reaching the typical sensations of the greatest founders of noir. The various investigations that the title proposes are interesting and present degrees of difficulty suitable for any player. However, what is most striking about Night Call is the phenomenal realism of the interactions with the lives of the various passengers. Allowing us to live different perspectives, themes and social reflections in the closed taxi space.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10