Night Call Preview – A Murder Mystery Worth Solving

People seem to have mixed feelings about taxi drivers, some feel they’re nothing but cut-you-off-all-the-time-scum, whereas others seem to not mind them or maybe like chatting with them to learn about interesting city facts and tales. It’s with this in mind that I went into the Black Muffin Studio and Monkey Moon co-developed and Raw Fury published murder mystery, narrative-driven noir thriller, Night Call, that has players take on the role of a not-so-typical taxi driver. To be honest, I didn’t know what exactly I was getting myself into, but I came to find that my brief time with the game made me realize that Night Call is going to be an unexpected and unique experience for anyone that takes it for a ride — when it drives over to consoles and PC-via Steam sometime this year.

In Night Call, there’s a serial killer on the loose in modern-day Paris. With the killer running amok, the body count rises, and as hard they try, the police have yet to catch the culprit. This is where you come in, as not only are you a taxi driver, but you also happen to be the last person to see the most recent victim alive, and you even managed to survive an attack from the killer. Needless to say, life has pretty much flipped upside down as you are thrown right into helping solve the case. The only way out: Help the police out by getting information from the right passengers, all the while making enough money to pay the bills.

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This premise itself is ultimately what drew me in right at the start. The sheer thought of being forced to solve an insane murder case, but still trying to do enough to get by, would be overwhelming in real life, to say the least. However, this scenario in Night Call is what makes it all the more exciting and nail-biting, especially knowing that the decisions that I made while playing would affect how things played out. The multiple paths that you can decide to take will let you actually be a part of the story. One interesting feature to note for the full version is that it will have multiple endings, meaning that your decisions can very well affect how the game ends.

Since Night Call lets you be a taxi driver, a good chunk of your time will be spent picking up passengers and going from point A to point B. Now, based on this alone, it might seem like the game would get repetitive after only a little while. But, here’s the thing: I never got bored while playing the preview build of the game and it’s all thanks to the original cast of characters (passengers) that I picked up and met along the way. While driving a passenger to their desired destination — which you won’t have to worry about actually driving, by the way — this will be when you step into a more confidential detective role.

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This role can be taken on any way you’d like, whether it’s being silent to make passengers feel on edge to the point that they’ll start talking, or chatty so that certain passengers will gladly want to talk to you about anything and everything. This is all done via a choice-based dialogue system, where you’ll have the option to choose how to interact with each passenger. Depending on your choices, you’ll either be one step closer or one step farther from solving the murder case you so desperately need to solve.

The time I spent with each passenger, learning about their stories and struggles, was memorable and engaging. This was mainly in part due to the well-written dialogue and dynamic personalities for all the passengers. For instance, one passenger was an introverted programmer who wholeheartedly believed that the world is but a computer simulation of sorts and that we, as humans, are basically not worth anything at all. With how diverse every passenger was and listening and helping them out, every drive I took on while playing was always full of intrigue and suspense that made me want to keep going.

Time is, of course, limited and every moment counts. Not only will there be dialogue part in the game, but there’ll also be a slight life-sim management part as well. In a nutshell, you’ll have to make sure to take care of your taxi by filing it up with gas and paying bills for it. This will lead to the interesting dilemma of either sticking to investigating by driving or using time and money to keep living comfortably. The life-sim management side of Night Call will add a bit more difficulty to the game, but in the preview, it wasn’t properly explained as I didn’t know how exactly understand the basics of how to best focus on it.

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Unfortunately, the same lack-of-explanation issues applied for the actual case solving elements in the game. After a long day of driving, you arrive back home, which then has you tasked with piecing together all the intel, such as files with information on suspects, and clues that you’ve collected so far to make progress on solving the case. The problem I had with this is that when interacting with certain objects, like a file, there was no specific information given to me at all — I didn’t know what contents were within the said file since there was nothing to read. However, images of the suspects, which were put on a board, did have little snippets about them, which I did like. I’m thinking that since I was just playing a preview, maybe this gameplay system overall hasn’t been truly flushed out yet. I do think it’s an interesting idea, and could see it adding more depth to the game, so it’d be great if it does become something more.

What doesn’t need to change or evolve, however, is Night Call’s gorgeous noir look and feel. Every single character and location are wonderfully hand-drawn, black and white illustrations, and the pinpoint use of lighting further evoked a mysterious, eerie, yet mesmerizing world. What’s more, is that the synth-heavy and rich soundtrack completely meshed well with the overall tone of the game.

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Even with my brief amount of time playing Night Call, it’s clear that it’s still a work-in-progress in some ways. However, with its marvelous noir style, unique cast of characters, and well-executed choice-driven gameplay, Night Call is shaping up to be a riveting and suspenseful thriller that you should keep an eye on. 

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.