Busy tonight?

Title: Night Call
Platform: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Developer: Monkey Moon, Black Muffin
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release date: Out now on PC, 2019 release for consoles
TL;DR: Engrossing stories that are weighed down by investigatory gameplay that struggles.
£16/$20 (also available through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for PC)
Console: TBC
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

Two strangers jump into your car, it’s late and they want you to drive them from one end of Paris to another. You begin driving through the night, your passengers giggling every now and again about the man at the bar and then their doctor. One of the women asks if you were listening, then whether you think children can inherit snobbish tendencies at birth. You say ‘no,’ the woman says you’re not any fun before disappearing into the night, and you go to collect your next passenger.

Night Call is at its best in these moments, when the focus isn’t so much on the focal point of the game than it is on the different, sprawling narrative that the game serves up. Along with those threads of story, each episode of Night Call is driven (heh heh) forward by a murderer that’s on the loose in Paris, and after a bit of cajoling, it’s up to your cabbie to figure out who’s going around stabbing people through investigatory works that show some promise but pails in comparison to the passing narratives of the passengers.

Your passengers in the game start off fairly standard – like the two ladies who opened this review – but as you mosey around the in-game map, hovering over who to pick up next, the game’s hiding away a fair few curious tales to tell. One passenger turned out to be a reality show contestant who was on their way to the production studio to yell at people for making him look bad. Another passenger kept giving my cab driver advice about women, He was not a cool guy. Then, while I was trying to decide who my last passenger of an evening would be, picking the one that would arrive closest to my home, I ended up driving home the one and only Santa. Of course, Santa was absolutely smashed, yelling about how kids expect too much from him, before yelling at you because you suggested he give kids wooden toys.

It’s these moments when you’re driving home some random stranger or, y’know, the twisted and bitter wreck that is Santa, that Night Call manages to create moment after moment of intrigue. Because even when you’re driving some slimy weirdo to an airport in the early hours of the morning so he can pick up women, Night Call manages to hone in on some genuine moments of vulnerability at times, while others just manage to leave you baffled in the most satisfying of ways.

Of course, Night Call isn’t all driving home drunk Santa and being interrogated by poets. Underneath the passing stories is the game’s running investigatory strand. Each episode of Night Call has your cabbie being assaulted by one of three serial killers, before being pushed into investigating who the murderer is by hassling passengers, going to a handful of locations, and being sent bundles of evidence that makes you wonder why you spent €200 on getting some useless evidence – all while trying to keep your job as cab driver going steady.

To be fair, Night Call offers a trio of difficulty modes that makes the work/unqualified detective balance that bit more difficult. But the main issue with Night Call’s take on investigating is that it feels like it’s almost filler at times. As if the game’s wonderfully noir setting, mixed with a palette of captivating stories wasn’t quite enough so they chucked in a murder mystery to string everything together.

It’s not that the underlying plot of each story is bad, and the investigation isn’t so spoon-fed as to make it superfluous but it’s the fragments of narrative which flesh out Night Call that make it such a great experience. Not every encounter is a winner but there’s enough in the passing stories to make it something you can dip in and out of when the mood strikes you.

So, Night Call feels like a game that at times isn’t confident enough in its cluster of stories, pushing it to introduce a running investigation. It doesn’t quite fail at that side of the game but it does little to make itself stand out as a collection of mysteries with any real staying power. Thankfully, Night Call offers up a moody monochrome Paris that you’ll only get snapshots of and an anthology of stories that manage to cultivate a passing intimacy that dissipates just as quickly as it arrives, as your passengers walk off into the night.

The Good:

  • A wonderfully moody Paris for you to take in every now and again
  • A collection of enthralling encounters that range from the sad to the bizarre

The Bad:

  • The investigation gameplay is pretty stilted, doing enough but far from being memorable
  • The anthology of mysteries is nice but all follow the same basic premise

Family Focus

Pegi 16 / ESRB M for Mature

Night Call is about hunting down a serial killer. Would you send your child out to find a serial killer? probably not. Keep them busy with Minecraft or something and keep Night Call for yourself.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.