To define Night Call, I would have to say it’s almost like a mixture of Crazy Taxi and L.A. Noire set in a black and white narrative-driven game. You play as a taxi driver in Paris, who finds himself involved with a murder; he was partially a victim. When you get back behind the wheel, you are asked by a detective to help find the murderer. She gives you no choice in the matter. To help her, you’ll be discovering clues through the act of talking to your customers. You play out each day, driving people around and holding conversations that could give you clues. Keep an eye on that gas tank! You also get paid driving people, so you have a choice on how to spend your money. Filling up the tank, buying newspapers, and even attempting some luck with lotto tickets. Time to test your detective skills.
Here’s what I liked:
Noir Graphic Novel — The first thing you might really appreciate is the design of this game. It’s black and white except for a few things that appear in yellow. What I personally was impressed by was the background stuff. While having conversations in the taxi, you can look out through the back window. The rain is a really cool effect and I thought it was fun to see when the car turned. Every now and then you’ll get a little mini-scene that is beautifully drawn. The writing in it makes you feel like you’re reading a “choose your own adventure” book. It’s all pretty creative and if you appreciate artistic games, you’ll be satisfied.
Interesting Characters — You’ll meet a lot of people along the way with your investigation. There are plenty of “off” people to pick up, and even a cat. They make up for entertaining conversations, especially people like Santa Claus or the drunks that are basically power rangers. It really helps because there are other passengers that are downright boring and a drag to drive. I wasn’t always interested in what they had to say and, unfortunately, those were the ones I should have been paying the most attention to. It’s nice to have those other distractions in place in order to keep yourself amused while doing so much reading.
The Map — I really like seeing the city on a map, giving me a small sense of actually being in a large city. There are plenty of people to drive around and they appear as icons with their faces. But besides just picking people up, you can also go to areas that may yield clues. They are kind of little side missions. Getting fuel can also be a good trip. You can buy a newspaper to learn more or you can actually play your luck with the scratch tickets. All in all, it serves as a good backdrop for the game.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Auto Mode — Technically, you don’t really have to read anything. You can just answer the passenger how you see fit. When you gather clues they show up on a bulletin board at your place. However, it was a bit annoying attempting to use this feature. I’m still not really sure when it’s activated. Does it mean it’s activated when it says auto? Or do I have to press it to initiate it? Sometimes it didn’t seem to do anything and I had to press it a few times. Then you get interrupted by having to choose something to say. With such a slow-progressing game, I’d like to just sit back and multi-task something else. You sometimes get the same passenger and it’s the same conversation you had before. (This happened once during a playthrough, but it was before I even met a quarter of the people). All in all, I feel like I have to constantly turn it on and pay attention, otherwise the text will stop scrolling to the next line.
I Need a Raise — Even on the easiest setting, money is a chore to obtain. You can commit to only driving around your passengers and ignoring all other side things, but you’ll still just lose money every night. What’s the point!? If I can’t make money driving and I’m losing income, why even drive? I was tipped 33 cents for a fare that cost 32.94 Euros. That is only a whopping 1% tip! Sometimes you get big tips though, so perhaps it depends on how you talked to them; though I was always a gentleman.
And Then it’s Over — Oddly, you might find yourself wishing the game would get some traction and lead up to something. You keep talking to people and it does get a bit boring, but then all of a sudden a week goes by and you’re supposed to accuse a suspect. But I surely haven’t gathered enough clues? I look at the bulletin board and sure enough, I had enough to figure out who the serial killer was. I had looked at that board a bunch but it was a bit confusing and seemed random. The final scenes were satisfying, but I am not sure I truly enjoyed getting there.
I’m torn between liking and disliking the game. While I respect the artistic design and I love a good crime investigation, I got bored much too quickly to hold much of an interest in what the passengers were saying. Picking up the same people and realizing it’s “them again” is a terrible experience. You have to read through all of it again and the auto mode is not designed well at all because it’s really not automatic. It keeps stopping for responses which were extremely annoying. People that were innocent one playthrough can be guilty the next, but that didn’t change their conversation. What changes are the clues on the board and how they are connected to the case? I even fell asleep one time playing. If you want to play an interactive book then you will probably like this. There just isn’t enough changing dialogue to really keep you engaged with repeat passengers even though a few are designed to have second pickups. You can refuse a passenger if you realize they are the same, but then you just lost gas money and precious time. I will probably play through the other missions just to do them, but I’m not entirely excited to do so.
Score: Limited Appeal
Night Call was published by Raw Fury and developed by Monkey Moon and BlackMuffin Studio on Xbox One. It was released on June 6, 2020, for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.