Review – Night Call
We’ve all been there. You go out with some friends for just a drink or two and it quickly escalates into several rounds of adult concoctions. You leave the bar with a sideways stumble while you desperately try to wrangle the multiple images into one cohesive scene with your one “good” eye. Realizing that you’re in no condition to drive, you hail a cab or call some other sort of ride sharing service. At some point you’ll probably let some some personal information slip or make some sort of a drunken scene in front of your vehicle operating savior. There’s no need to worry though. They see this sort of tomfoolery all the time. It’s the nature of the business. It makes you wonder just what sorts of depravity cab drivers see on a day to day (or should I say night to night) basis. Night Call from MonkeyMoon and Raw Fury gives us just such a glimpse into the nocturnal world of a taxi driver.
In Night Call, you play as a taxi driver in France. You have recently survived an attack from a serial killer and are the sole survivor. You have no memory of the events of that fateful night other than a feeling that someone was behind you, as well as a scar that serves as a permanent reminder of what happened. You take to driving the streets again to make your living, only to be coerced into helping the police solve a murder case involving the same psycho that attacked you previously. You don’t really want to help, but you have no choice.
There are a few different cases to choose from in Night Call, all ranging in difficulty. The premise of the game is to drive around at night and pick up as many fares as you can so you can make a profit and hopefully hear some information about the serial killer. You have an investigation board in your room at home where you can attempt to piece together the different tidbits of information you receive throughout the night.
After a week of driving and speaking to the locals, you’ll hopefully have enough information to give the detective a name to go off of for an arrest. Name the wrong suspect and you’ll fail. If you don’t make enough in fares and tips, you’ll fail. Apparently, even following through a normal conversation will also cause you to fail when the game decides to crap out on you. Which is fairly often, I’m sorry to say.
Night Call is absolutely rife with glitches, which is naturally my biggest gripe with the game. I can forgive the story taking a while to go anywhere interesting and I can forgive the tedious nature of driving patrons around all night. After all, that comes with the job and is to be expected.
What I cannot forgive is the game freezing for no reason. Then making me start the level over again from the most recent checkpoint several times in a row in order for it to decide to start working again. I almost rage quit a game that is essentially an interactive visual novel, simply because it kept either kicking me back out to the title screen or just froze completely. This is unacceptable to say the least.
The cases themselves are pretty interesting, but the build up to solving them takes way too long. In between digging up clues about the cases, you’ll meet a wide assortment of colorful people. Most of whom are looking to get from point A to point B safely and all the while baring their souls to you. It’s a cool look into the psyche of various people as they struggle to make ends meet or are dealing with a personal crisis.
However, their stories often repeat, even if you’ve already spoken to them before. This adds to the level of tedium of filling the time in between trying to piece together evidence to catch the killer. Not every fare is interesting either. Far from it in fact, but I guess that adds to the realism of Night Call. If every customer had a compelling story, then there might be a lot more cab drivers in the world.
The art style of Night Call drew me in with its noir visual novel theme. The images are a little too simplistic though and many of the characters look very similar, especially the women. There’s not a whole lot in the way of environments either, as most of the game focuses on facing the cab driver and his patrons in the back seat. Most surprisingly, the visuals became even lower in quality and resolution during the cutscenes. In these instances, the graphics became very blocky and blurred. This might have been the first time I’ve experienced a game that performed worse during the cutsecenes than during the in-game play.
There’s almost nothing to speak to with regards to the sound design. There’s no voice acting since it’s more of a visual novel type of game. However, there’s also almost no sound effects whatsoever aside from the sound of a door closing, a car starting, and rain hitting a windshield. Seriously, that’s it. There is a subtle soundtrack to the game that does fit most of the encounters fairly well, but it’s so subdued that it’s barely noticeable after a short time.
Night Call has an interesting premise, but unfortunately falls flat with pacing issues, repetitive interactions, and a jumbled narrative. Its murder cases never seem to live up to the intensity of the dark and gritty noir tone. Then there’s the fact that you’ll definitely have to restart your game several times thanks to the many glitches and freezes that this game has to offer. Maybe we should say “goodnight” to Night Call.
The noir graphic novel art style is appropriate for the theme, but the characters lack definition and the cutscenes drop their resolution drastically.
It’s your basic point and click since it’s pretty much an interactive visual novel. There are so many glitches and game freezes that it becomes near impossible to finish at times.
There’s not much to the sound design other than some bare bones car sound effects and a subtle musical score.
The cases are somewhat interesting, but lack the punch of a dark story. Some of the fares range from silly to downright bizarre. The game freezes kill the momentum of the game’s progression.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Night Call is available now on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Night Call was provided by the publisher.