Review – Night Book
Wales Interactive has carved a niche with their interactive movies over the past few years, with titles such as Late Shift and The Complex, a crime flick and a sci-fi thriller, respectively. I may not think all of their titles are bangers as games, but I do have to praise their genre variety, as well as production values. Their latest title, Night Book, is yet another completely different take on FMV games, being more of a horror flick this time around. Sadly, they went for some of the cheapest, most clichéd kinds of cinematic horror…
There is nothing wrong with Night Book being an interactive movie. It is Wales Interactive’s schtick, and they’re doing well in their own niche. As usual, this is the typical game where you’re supposed to watch a surprisingly well-acted movie and decide the outcomes based on two decisions at a time, creating a butterfly effect. The overall “replayability” (if you can call that) comes from the fact that you can create a handful of different storylines and outcomes based on said decisions. The problem is the kind of horror movie they decided to come up with.
Night Book, for all intents and purposes, is an interactive Blumhouse horror flick. And no, it’s not similar to one of their good horror flicks, like Get Out, Insidious, or Sinister. Instead, it’s heavily based on crap like Paranormal Activity and, most specifically, Unfriended, that one movie set entirely on Skype conversation windows. Even before the plot actually started to unfold, I was already getting tired of looking at the game itself, as it was entirely set on a computer screen, with conversation windows and CCTV footage showcasing the events of the movie itself.
I get why the game went for such visual style. According to the developers, Night Book was entirely developed (and in this case, filmed) during the pandemic. People couldn’t film in studios that easily, so they had to resort to working remotely, as did everyone else in the world. Sadly, in this case, it just ended up backfiring. It’s really hard to make such a premise visually convincing, even if the quality of the photography itself isn’t half-bad. It wasn’t visually appealing even in the movies that inspired this game in the first place.
The protagonist in Night Book is Loralyn, an interpreter who makes a living by doing real-time interpretations of English and French conversations through the internet. However, she’s also someone who knows an ancient ritualistic language from a place she once grew up with her father. When she is tricked into translating a passage from a book, she accidentally summons an evil spirit that starts haunting her, her yet-to-be-born child, her mentally ill dad, and even her husband working abroad. What ensues is a series of jumpscares, CCTV glitches, and some occasionally clever editing techniques to emulate the feel of something remotely scary going on. Sadly, this movie/game wasn’t scary at all. Nor tense. Nor engaging.
Although, I don’t necessarily blame the actors. They do a good job. The acting is decent and lead star Julie Dray does her best to convey a woman torn between a bad job, having to deal with a fiancé working abroad, coping with a mentally ill dad, and also the tiny little detail of her being pregnant. Sadly, the plot is just too predictable. The rest of the characters aren’t engaging in the slightest. And the amount of Paranormal Activity-esque jumpscares and loud bursts of noise, yikes.
When compared to the rest of Wales Interactive’s, well, interactive movies, Night Book is easily the weakest of bunch. I have nothing against its acting or the fact there isn’t a lot of interactivity in here, but I was beyond annoyed with its clichéd Blumhouse-esque premise and its tiresome visuals. It’s not a very interesting story and I failed to connect with or care about any of its characters. Whereas I can actually recommend The Complex to people into the genre, I really don’t think Night Book will appeal to anyone.
Looking at CCTV footage and Zoom calls is nowhere near as interesting as the high quality photography present in Late Shift or The Complex.
Just like its predecessors, Night Book is all about choosing between options A or B, and facing the impact of your actions.
Even if Night Book features decent sound mixing and good acting, it is riddled with loud bangs and the occasional jumpscare.
Fun Factor: 5.0
Its gameplay loop won’t please many, but the main problem lies in its Blumhouse-esque horror structure, full of annoying genre clichés.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Night Book is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Night Book was provided by the publisher.