Review: Night Call
Posted 02 Sep 2020 at 18:12 by Dean Jones
With its black and white noir style, Night Call is a taxi-driving investigation visual novel, with some colourful characters who pour out their hearts and souls from within the safety of your taxi, delivering people across a nighttime modern Paris.
You play as Houssine, an Arab taxi driver who hears a commotion after he drops off a passenger. He walks in on a serial killer and is shot in the back. After 3 months of recovery, he returns to his taxi driver job only to be blackmailed by a policewoman over his dark past. Houssine is given the task of finding out who the serial killer is.
Throughout each day, you choose which passengers you want to pick up and areas that you can investigate. These take up limited fuel and time resources, so you can only do so much each night. You also have to succeed as a job, as there are lots of fees to pay, and some evidence needs to be bought. Run out of money, and it is game over.
If you last the night, you will return to your studio apartment and can “read” any evidence you find. It’s more that Houssine will read it (you can’t look at the full details of the case), and pick out relevant snippets, and add them to your interactive crime cork board. You can move around the clues on the board how you please, but these clues are already linked to the suspect. You don’t make any of these links yourself, it’s all automatic, so moving the clues around does nothing.
After around 6 nights, the policewoman will call to ask you who you think the murderer is. It’s the big moment, is there an obvious choice? Luckily, it doesn’t actually matter, pick the wrong person and the cop will ask you to try again. Sadly, the murder mystery part of the game is not interesting in the slightest, you only get small snippets of information and it just feels like the game is solving it for you.
Hmm... maybe... nah, but what about... nope... then... *shrugs*
Luckily, the actual taxi part is much more interesting. You don’t do the driving yourself, the game is presented in a “rear view mirror” view of Houssine and the passenger(s). The wide array of characters have a lot to talk about on a matter of subjects, and you can choose how Houssine responds to these. I had a long conversation with a British woman about Brexit, a black American about how the police treats them, and a couple who had been meeting donors as they want to have a baby, just to name a few.
Night Call definitely doesn’t shy away from what subjects may come up, but not all conversations are like that. I encountered a hoodie-wearing youngster who hates cops…yet is in a relationship with a cop. Someone who fell in love with someone who was on holiday in Paris, who you can choose to convince to return to the airport and hop on the next flight to follow them. Some encounters are downright strange, like a drunken guy in a Santa suit who could possibly be THE Santa. There are lots of people to meet, some of them will have further conversations if you encounter them again. Talking to passengers is definitely the highlight of the game, so after your first (out of three) cases, you’ll be eager to move onto the second.
You play as Houssine, an, an Arab taxi driver who hears a commotion after he drops off a passenger. He walks in on a serial killer and is shot in the back. After 3 months of recovery, he returns to his taxi driver job only to be blackmailed by a policewoman over his dark….if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same text as before. The starting cutscene and overall story are exactly the same in all three cases, just with different suspects and murderer. All conversations with passengers are reset, too, so you will get lots of long repeated sections (you can choose different responses for some, though).
Night Call does feature a Freedrive mode, where there is no investigation, and time, fuel, and money are all ignored. In this, you can focus on enjoying the conversations with passengers. I do think it’s a shame that there’s no middle ground, where you can not have the investigation but still have the night cycle, money, and fuel. There are a lot of interesting characters to meet and it would be nice to be able to focus on that with a more “game” setting.
A potential name idea for an up-and-coming Indie band?
In terms of Switch features, Night Call does not utilise much. When playing with Joy-Cons, changing selection is done with the left stick, while continuing is with the A button. The game could have easily be designed to allow you to relax more with just one Joy-Con but there is no in-game option to do so. When in handheld mode, even though the interface uses a pointer, there are no touch screen controls and some of the smaller text is difficult to read.
For a murder mystery game, it’s strange that the murder mystery is by far the least interesting component of the game. Night Call is still filled with interesting characters, and broaches a wide range of subjects. If these conversations sound interesting, it’s definitely worth checking it out, but ultimately Night Call failed in both the game and overall story departments.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Night Call is a murder mystery game, without the mystery, but what it lacks in intrigue, it makes up for with a bizarre cast of characters, which will likely hold your interest for the majority of the game. A great deal of effort has clearly been put into the overall style, but there isn't much substance when it comes down to interacting with the narrative. What is left for the player is very little in terms of agency, or urgency, yet the overall ride is still enjoyable.
Wide cast of interesting and diverse characters
Lots of issues talked about
But also some fun and crazy moments
The “murder mystery” seems irrelevant