Title: Night Call
Developer: Black Muffin Studio, Monkey Monn
Release Date: July 17, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Raw Fury
There’s nothing quite like going for a night cruise. It’s the perfect time to just let your thoughts wander about, to reflect on everything that happened during the day. Well, what if that relaxing night drive ends up taking a turn for the worst, and you weren’t just a passenger but a taxi driver? This is the scenario you have to deal with in Night Call, the murder mystery adventure co-developed by Black Muffin Studio and Monkey Moon and published by Raw Fury.
Night Call doesn’t fantasize the life of an everyday taxi driver. The adventure is dark and gritty, full of characters to meet, and it’s not so easy to get through. Basically, this isn’t like a Fast and Furious taxi spinoff game. That said, Night Call starts with a bang, but experiencing the daily life of a taxi driver (who also happens to be a private investigator) makes the game a little too tedious to the point that players may be disinterested in playing till the very end.
In Night Call, there’s a tireless serial killer on the loose in modern-day Paris. With the killer running loose, the number of victims continues to rise. The police have tried catching the culprit behind all these killings, yet as hard as they try, they still can’t seem to get the job done. 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.
Not only that but you also managed to survive an attack from the killer, a rare experience given that hardly anyone has laid eyes on the killer at all. Needless to say, life has taken a turn for the worst, as your typical job of bringing passengers from point A to point B has turned into something bigger than you ever expected. Since the police suspect that you are, indeed, the killer, there’s only one way out: Prove your innocence by helping the police obtain information regarding the killer’s whereabouts and motives by chatting with passengers. This tough task also has to be done while making enough money to pay the bills.
It’s a rather difficult spot to be in, right? Clearly, it’s this situation alone is what will reel you in at first. Being a taxi driver would’ve been just fine, but being a taxi driver and a private investigator is a whole other story. Because of this, Night Call’s double life premise overall is quite unique in itself. Also, given that there are multiple paths that you can take on, both with your life as a taxi driver and as a private investigator, makes the game even more intriguing beyond its premise. Depending on all the decisions made, the game can end in various ways, which is another reason as to how Night Call encourages the player to truly step into the role of the main character (who’s identity and background I’m not going to reveal for the sake of not spoiling anything). What’s also important to note is that there are multiple stories that can be played through,
While in the grand scheme of things Night Call sounds interesting and non-linear, it’s gameplay does struggle a bit as it follows a sort of specific loop that players may get tired of — if they aren’t interested in individual, side-like stories. Gameplay basically narrows down to two parrs: Being a taxi driver and engaging in choice-driven conversations with passengers, and piecing together clues to try to deduce information regarding the killer (who they are, why they’re killing people, etc.). The taxi driver side of gameplay is relatively engaging, especially for those that appreciate visual novels or text-heavy narratives (like we do), but the investigation part just feels more like a chore than anything.
Since you’re a taxi driver, a hefty chunk of your time is spent picking up passengers and bringing them from point A to point B. While I, at first, thought I’d get tired of doing this over and over again, I found that I never got bored and it’s due to the wildly original cast of characters (passengers) in Night Call.
This is due to the memorable stories of each of the passengers in Night Call. When you first meet them, they’re currently just strangers, however, once you talk to them, get to know them, then that’s when the great writing of Night Call comes to light. What also really helps to keep you engaged is that you have the option to decide how to interact with each passenger. Want to not say a single word? You can do that. Feel like taking a passenger’s ear off? You can do that, too. It’s up to you to be the taxi driver you want to be, which is what makes Night Call so player-choice friendly.
However while this all sounds good, I did feel as though my choices didn’t necessarily make too much of an impact at times, and even at the end, it was unclear how my choices truly affected things like how passengers would respond and how the game’s ending would change — unlike, let’s say, Heavy Rain. What also is a downer is that many of the passengers you only meet with once, so as soon as you get to know them, they are never to be seen again. Now, of course, this is the nature of the beast that is being a taxi driver, but I would’ve felt more a part of the game’s world if there were a larger cast of returning characters.
Specific character storytelling is Night Call’s strong suit, but unfortunately, other gameplay elements lack in drawing the player’s attention and simply aren’t fleshed out well enough. There is a slight life-sim management side of Night Call in which you need to manage expenses, like how much gas you have, but the problem with this is that it’s not properly explained. For example, when driving to a destination, I didn’t know how much gas would be needed to get to that destination.
This issue is relevant with all the case-solving you need to do in Night Call. Once your shift is over, you end up back at the main character’s apartment and need to put together all the intel that’s been collected so far to make progress with the case that so desperately needs to be solved. Sadly, Night Call doesn’t let you dive deep into all the intel — basically, all you need to do is select the intel, and it’s then considered as “read”. However, images of the suspects and some case details, are displayed via a bulletin board, which I did like but I felt that this was yet another part that should’ve been properly explained to the player.
That aside, it’s easy to admit that Night Call has a gorgeous noir presentation. Characters, specifically are wonderfully hand-drawn, black and white illustrations. While the character designs are noteworthy, the world of Night Call could’ve used the same attention to detail. Briefly, various areas and landmarks are shown, like of course the Eiffel Tower, but unfortunately, they are more like filler pieces since they are shown way too frequently. As a result, it’s difficult to be completely captivated in Night Call’s world, regardless of the rich soundtrack it has.
In the end, Night Call does have characters that you can’t help but be drawn to, and a choice-based dialogue system that affects how things play out. But, since it lacks in being engaging in all other fronts, it’s tough to feel the need to solve the many mysteries within the game. So with that said, the question lies, “Is Night Call a mystery worth solving?” I would say “yes”, only if you can look past all the rough spots you’ll experience. With Night Call, The developer showed that it can nail narrative-driven storytelling, so because of that, I’m looking forward to their future games.
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