There are never enough good whodunnit games out there, certainly not in the triple-A market. As always, indie scene comes to rescue when you want to vex your wits and perception. Night Call is a bit different murder mystery, though, and its premise is particularly interesting. You’re not playing a copper, you’re playing a cabbie! Serial killer is at loose in the nighttime Paris and the police is baffled. That’s where you come in this black & white crime story.
As an only survivor of an alleged murder attempt by the Judge, as the police calls the maniac killer, you’re more than a passing interest to the detective in the case. She practically blackmails you by your shady past to help her in her investigation. Your job; keep your eyes and ears open when you pick up clients and have conversations with them. They might know something they’re not willing to tell to the police but might blabber to a sympathetic night cabbie. Of course, all the while you have to make profit in order to keep your taxi going. After all, as the detective bluntly puts it outs, you’re nothing without your car. You have to fill up gas in the gas stations and sometimes, their observant clerks might share their information, too. Eventually, it comes a time when you have to call off for the night, drive home, calculate your income (the number below the dotted line is often sad!), and take a look at the deduction board, pinned with clues you have gathered.
The demo version allowed to pick up two passengers, the first of whom was always the same young lady. She was keen on sharing her quarrel with her mother who thinks that something like dancing isn’t a career for her daughter to pursue. You can pick up dialogue choices when appropriate, showing compassion, counter-opinions or even be indifferent by saying nothing. The second customer was more random, like a young Indian woman who is forced to marry a man she hasn’t ever seen and is on her way to the airport to pick him up. Here, the game presents different sides to the matter. You can criticize how something so arcane is still happening in the today’s world but on the other hand, the arrangement worked for the girl’s parents and she turned out fine.
A troubled small-time politician on the verge of a breakdown was entirely another matter. He wants to quit his job as the moral decadence is ripe in the office he works for. More than that, he wants to “lose” his briefcase and asks you to help him. Who knows, maybe one of these passengers is the killer who is playing with you because he/she knows you inside out after digging out your intestines. All in all, the approach Night Call takes is close to visual novels. You don’t do any actual driving, you just choose passenger, gas station or home icons from the top-down Paris map that takes up half of the screen and the game takes you to destinations automatically. There is interaction in the form of dialogue choices but the demo was too short to make further conclusions how it works in the long term. Also, the demo ends at the deduction board. It shows all five victims so far and the clues the detective gave you. As you drive around each night, you’re supposed to gather new clues and arrange them in a plausible order but this aspect was completely absent in the preview as there wasn’t a following day to play.
There’s no voice acting, only written prose. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it perhaps tried a bit too much. Often it felt that the writing forced certain thoughts into your head without giving you a chance to feel whatever you would have wanted. Again, this is something that can’t be confirmed by the short demo. Maybe in the big picture the style of the writing starts to feel more natural. And of course, there’s a language barrier to take into account. The developers are French so there’s bound to be something lost in translation. What I can say for sure, though, is that the game feels honest in its ambitions.
Night Call is completely rendered in a stylized black & white art. Your passengers are characteristically drawn, showing stripped-down details that nicely support the dialogue. The environment art is only seen through the cab windows as you drive by locations, creating a somber, silent ambience. Overall, in all its minimalism, there’s just something in driving through Paris in night. The premise remains intriguing. It’s promised that there will be multiple paths to the solution with different culprits. Who knows, maybe you are the Judge yourself! The preview was too short, maybe intentionally so that it left an urge to see more of Night Call and how it will fold out. Not only how it will work as a mystery novel but how it will fare as an interactive crime fiction. The game will be out later in the year for PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, and I’m sure to answer the night call when the time comes.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.