The dark and forebodingly tense flavour of a film noir infused game title is always welcome.
Playing as a taxi driver forced into playing detective,the overall look,feeling and atmosphere could well have been extracted from the crime fuelled pages of a Mickey Spillane novel.
Part visual novel with crime busting elements included. What soon materialises,is a taxi themed gaming experience that is far better than just standard fare ..
The atmospheric and dark streets of Paris,are still reeling from past events. Protests,terrorist attacks and now,in the grip of a roaming serial killer. One night changes your life forever. Whilst driving and taking a break,you see and feel something,then all goes blank. You wake 2 weeks later from an induced coma and discover that you were the serial killers latest victim,but lucky to be alive to tell the tale! Unfortunately,you don’t remember a thing.The investigating police have drawn a blank and have no new leads,and the story quickly shifts to your first night back at work. Your boss isn’t happy,and thinks you’re not well enough to be back at work,but you take your night shift anyway.
Halfway through the night,your next passenger is someone you faintly remember. It’s the chief investigating officer to the serial killer case,and she has a proposition.. With no new leads to the identity of the killer and her teams efforts proving fruitless,some further investigating reveals some hidden truths about you! She now knows your true name,true identity and your past conviction you wanted to keep hidden from your new family and your new life.
The proposition is clear…One week to do your job,talk to passengers and extract information and clues and disclose the identity of the serial killer! Or she will go public and expose your real name and chequered past to everyone!
Gameplay mainly revolves around a Paris street map,with potential passenger face tiles in various locations dotted around. It’s apparent that there’s no GTA type taxi driving skills needed here,where it’s just a click of the tile,and waiting for the arrow to arrive at its destination.
You are then given the passengers name,fare to earn and the distance it will take. These are important factors to consider,as there is also a type of management element involved throughout your shift.Your energy depletes as the shift progresses.Fuel is used as your tank empties and of course,substantial fares gain most profit. Luckily for you,there’s several garages highlighted on the map where you can fill your car up with fuel and a shop where you buy a paper,a scratch card for a potentially lucky windfall or just a chat with the cashier for some info,but mainly at the cost of some of your valuable earnings.
Picking up a passenger is where the game really shines,with a total of 75 different people included in this labyrinthine Parisian street layout. All have a staggering array of personalities,occupations and political and social outlooks,that all seem fractured in some way.Fractured relationships,fractured life experiences,fractured jobs.Its really up to you,to try to smooth over those fractures,get them to warm to you,open up and talk,and then just maybe you can obtain the clues and information you seek.
At the end of every shift,you return to your apartment with any clues you’ve collected throughout the night. This is represented by photos and folders displayed and laid out on a table.A press of an highlighted folder and photo then sends the information onto a FBI style notice board displaying the pictures of your suspects with the relevant snippets of clues automatically pinned in place.
You have as much time to study the board as you require,and once deliberated can then exit the board and retire for the night and the next shift..
Night Call really excels in its story of a man caught in a web of mystery,intrigue and murder.The tension and eerie suspense it very often exudes with every passenger interaction,feels very realistic to say the least.
Developers have not held back in touching on many complex and controversial themes such as racism,terrorism and political and social unrest. Your intervention can also change your passengers life for the better or worse,depending on how you pick your responses to their questions with multiple choice text options on screen. For example a typical night shift saw me talking to and settling a teenager torn between divorced parents.I reassured a young hoodie type mime student harassed by the police.Persuaded a young girl to follow her heart after leaving the love of her life at the airport and consoled a lawyer with conflicting doubts defending his client accused of terrorism.Its all immensely draining and satisfying at the same time!
Graphically,there’s a murky comic book look with a palette of monochrome black,grey and white. The often tense and brooding atmosphere is ramped up by static cutscenes as your conversation with each passenger progresses. A smoky neon light of the local pharmacy.The passing of the local night train over a bridge or the scene of taxi drivers taking a cigarette break whilst huddled at a table outside the taxi rank. There’s also some very nice attention to detail with passenger facial expressions and the passing scenery from inside the cab with each trip you take.
This is also accompanied by a loop of industrial electronic instrumental tracks that add drama and tension as you drive and try to catch the killer.
Overall,I would definitely say this game has a lot of replayability going for it. Each new game can be selected from several different cases on offer,with the option to randomly select a case,select “special cases”or skip the investigation part altogether with “free roam”mode and just engage in the many interesting and diverse character conversations.
There is little to fault here,with a game that grabs you from the very first screen,and refuses to let go as the days progress and each plot thickens.
It’s quite simply a very different game of its kind,and developed this well,it’s also very difficult to not keep coming back!…
Game of the Year !!
Thanks to Monkey Moon/BlackMuffin Studio for the code.