I jump into taxis quite often – not Ubers, I’m happy to say I’ve never used their ‘overpriced and dodgy fair-increasing based on demand’ service – but I usually sit there in silence, looking out of the window as I’m taken from my current location to my final destination. As such, I would make a terrible NPC in Night Call; a game about uncovering clues that lead you to a murderer whilst generally getting to know your passengers better by listening to their worries and situations whilst offering advice and support. But, seeing as you’re merely a taxi driver and not a detective, can you uncover the truth where the police have failed?
Developed by Monkey Moon and BlackMuffin, and published by Raw Fury, this Noir-style mystery had me hooked with its intriguing story, crazy passengers, and interesting gameplay. So, let’s take a closer look at how the game works and if you should pick this game up today.
There’s a serial killer on the loose in Paris, the police have been unable to catch them despite the number of deaths gradually increasing. So far there has been only one survivor from this madman (or woman), a taxi driver who was left for dead one night after his shift finished. Desperate to wrap up the case, the police have made a case against you, the victim, which portrays you as the infamous murderer they are looking for, causing your own injuries as a means of hiding in plain sight. However, not all of the officers agree with this train of thought.
You’re given up to seven nights to prove your innocence, talking to your passengers whilst working on the case in your own time in order to obtain concrete evidence that shows you’re not the killer by naming the one who is. As you drive around the silent streets of Paris in the dead of night, you’ll encounter a number of strange and wonderful passengers who you must earn the trust of and allow them to confide in you as they may subconsciously give you information about the case or have an interesting story to tell.
Night Call is a non-linear narrative-driven investigation game where no two playthroughs will be the same, even if you’re presented with the same set of suspects to point a finger at. Just because they’re the same doesn’t mean the passengers you’ll meet will be, so the information you gather and conclusions you come to may differ. Will you coerce vital information out of your paying passengers, or will you fall short and end up paying for someone else’s crimes? That all depends on you and how you handle the next Night Call…
Night Call is a narrative-driven adventure game with a Visual Novel-vibe to it, meaning there’s a lot of reading involved. Sadly, there’s no voices, something which would have not only made the game much more immersive and engaging, but I imagine it would have increased the production costs and size of the overall game due to how many people you meet. Instead, you’ll have to come up with your own quirky accents and Monty Python-esque women’s voices as you play the game (I’m not saying I sat there and read out the dialogue to myself in funny voices, but I’m also not saying I didn’t…)
Each night consists of you choosing how you wish to spend your time before returning home and looking over the clues you’ve gathered in relation to tracking down the serial killer. Will you stop off at the Newsagent, scratch a few scratch cards, buy a newspaper to read through, and sit in your car listening to the news, or will you pick up passengers and learn about their lives as you perform your job whilst chatting to them? You can even stop at important venues such as a gun shop to enquire about the weapon the murderer used or other such locations you discover whilst obtaining evidence.
At the end of each night, you must recall the information you’ve gathered (if you have time) and try to piece together a case against one of your suspects. The answer isn’t always the one with the most pieces of information, it’s the one with the most convincing evidence. You can dismiss or highlight the information you get along the way and then name the one you believe it to be to your police contact before you’re arrested. If you’re right, you’ll be given a plan on how to proceed in order to bring the person to justice and get them arrested, if you’re wrong then you’ll be taking their place.
The thing which really stood out whilst I played Night Call was the brilliant dialogue with the passengers you pick up. I spoke to a guy who was asking me what I thought of the police and if I think they’re racist against black people (something which is quite relatable at the moment) and an A.I. robotic attendant who knows he’s going to destroy the human race. Not to mention a ghost who appeared in my cab asking for a ride downtown, and a guy who isn’t too different from Richard La Ruina (the creator of Super Seducer), telling me how to pick up women in an airport.
There are 89 people to interact with throughout Night Call, supposedly about 14 more than the original PC release. Each one has their own personality, issues, concerns, and secrets. What I thought was great is that the game has a menu which shows you everyone you’ve ever talked to along with what secrets and discussions you’ve uncovered as well as the day you did this. So, completionists can spend hours upon hours trying to unlock every choice and outcome within the game – maybe this is an achievement? The Switch, unfortunately, doesn’t have any.
The first few times I played the game I actually forgot there was an underlying narrative of finding the killer before I’m arrested, I just went around picking up people and listening to what they had to say. However, I then realised that the game actually comes with a ‘Free Roam’ mode in which you can just drive around and take on new passengers without having to worry about the actual story and the threat of being killed or arrested – I spent a while playing this.
I love games with case/murder boards in them. Phantom Doctrine did this really well by having you discover vital information which you linked together to unlock new intel and places to investigate. However, this is probably the most disappointing aspect of Night Call, mainly due to how confusing and unclear it is. After talking to your police contact the first time you’re given the suspect files and a few pieces of evidence against each person. These are pre-linked so you know who they relate too. But, you’re also given a few loose statements which don’t belong to anyone. Thus begins the confusion.
You can’t manually link evidence, so the board quickly gets quite messy and full of statements which may or may not be true. You can click on them and grey them out as if to say “this isn’t relevant”, a process you can also do to the actual suspects and all linked comments, but it still doesn’t feel as smooth or intuitive as other games which use a similar process. You continue to obtain more statements and clues by reading papers, listening to the radio, talking to key suspects as you give them a ride, and picking up documents passengers drop when getting out of your cab, but these only add to the clutter on the board.
By the end of my first case, I had a board full of statements, many of which were complementary to one another for multiple suspects, rather than contradictory. As such, I found it incredibly difficult to pin down who the actual murderer was. I felt I wasn’t given enough information about the case or enough to go on, just a few single-lined comments pinned to a cork-board in my bedroom with string attached to a few of them.
However, simply guessing who the killer was, getting it wrong, then reloading, allowed me to pick another person until I was finally right. Sure, this defeats the whole point of gathering information if I’m doing trial and error, but I was a bit surprised the game actually let me do this considering the emphasis on building up a good case against someone. I don’t know if this is intentional or if the developers don’t mind you guessing until you find the right person, but I’ll be emailing my contact with Raw Fury as I believe the ability to do this breaks the immersion and makes the previous six nights of gathering information pointless – but it does lead to always getting the right person.
Working as a taxi driver must be hard in real life, I imagine a number of them don’t get a salary (or it’s minimum wage) and have to rely on commission and tips to pay the bills. Night Call is no different, unfortunately. At the end of each night, you’re forced to pay a set of bills including maintenance and your share to the taxi firm, often resulting in losses! I’ve not yet reached zero, or a negative balance, but I’ve come close.
This is why planning out your night is essential as you can’t spend the whole time visiting various locations, buying scratch cards, reading the paper, or giving lifts to your homeless buddy who doesn’t pay, you have to take on passengers in order to acquire money to try and counter the bills you’re going to face.
I played the game on all three difficulties (including ‘story’ mode) and they were all rather harsh and stingy on the money you gain. I recall giving a guy a lift which took about 40 minutes and he gave me a 12 cents tip… I tip my taxi more than that when I’m going to my parents, a 3-4 minute drive from my house! As such, I found myself giving random passengers a lift more than actually targeting the locations to learn more about the investigation. Sure, I loved every passenger and I really enjoyed it when I jumped into the Free Roam mode, but having both time and money to also think about forces you to try and prioritise accordingly.
One thing I’ve not talked about in detail is the actual case itself, this is because there are three cases for you to choose from.
• The Judge – this is the easiest case where all the victims have something in common and the motive is quite easy to spot, as is determining who the killer is from the list of suspects you’re given.
• The Angel of Death – this one is a little trickier as the victims seem random and the motive behind why these people were targetted isn’t quite as clear.
•The Sandman – this case is darker and more twisted than the others and also seems the victims are random with no connection. However, as long as you ask the right questions, I’m sure you’ll find the connection.
The game also gives you two other options, a ‘Surprise’ investigation and a ‘Random’ one. Now, I was hoping these would procedurally generate a killer and a bunch of suspects based on a list of possibilities the developers had created in the backend – I was wrong. ‘Surprise’ just means the game will randomly pick one of the three cases above which you’ve not yet completed. ‘Random’ is the same but it’ll pick a random one from all three, regardless of if you’ve finished it before or not.
Every case you take starts off the same though, you’re a taxi driver who has been left for dead by the killer, you were in a coma for two weeks and now you must find the actual killer before you’re arrested for his crimes. Night 2 is where the game changes as the new narrative kicks in.
Visually, I love the art style of the game. You see the map and your little GPS marker moving along the map at the top (which also stops moving when the image below shows the car in a stationary position) and the noir-stylised images below of yourself talking to the passengers. Each character has their own personality and charm which is represented within their dialogue and the overall way they’ve been drawn – I just really wish the game had voices to further immerse us.
Night Call supports English, French and German text along with a bunch of subtitle sizes – which is great as it means you can adjust to both when playing on the TV and in portable mode to the size you require. A lot of games forget to include something like this and design the fonts around one or the other leading to massive text (like in Ys: Memories of Celceta) or tiny fonts (like Song of Memories).
I would love to say that my time with the game has been nothing but fun, intrigue and mystery – but it hasn’t. The game has crashed on me countless times (a first for a Nintendo Switch title for me) – crashing when I’ve left it on pause for a while, suspended it a couple of times, accessed the list of passengers, started a new game… Just like the predictability of which passengers you’ll see, it’s all very random! There have also been a few graphical glitches such as the cursor not appearing and the passenger list flickering like it’s having a rave when you highlight certain people.
These issues have been reported though and there is a patch on the way to resolve them. However, Nintendo seems quite slow at the moment with distributing updates so it’s not actually deployed yet. But, other than the crashing issues, nothing has really made me lose progress or stunted my enjoyment of the title so these aren’t taken into consideration with my score below, just be aware that until the patch arrives, the game may be a little unstable in some areas.
Night Call is an original take on the narrative-driven investigation genre, playing almost like a visual novel with lots of choices. Also, no two playthroughs will be the same thanks to the abundance of passengers which you can interact with and the evidence you’ll collect to help you come to your final conclusion. Despite my issues with the case board (mainly revolving around how confusing, unintuitive, and not very user-friendly it is), I still thoroughly enjoyed talking to the passengers, learning more about the case, investigating the suspects, and coming to my own conclusions around who I think is the serial killer. This is a game which makes you think without giving you the answer on a plate – certainly a recommendation from me for the passenger interactions alone!
Night Call is out now on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC. It’s also out on Xbox GamePass for both PC and Xbox Console.
- - The conversations you have with each passenger are well-written and quite original and imaginative
- - I love the noir-style visuals, it fits the mood of the game perfectly
- - Each time you play the game you'll get different experiences despite the suspects and outcome being the same. This is thanks to the randomness of which passengers appear each night
- - A really fun and creative way to present an investigative mystery experience
- - The case board left a lot to be desired. I found it too basic and unituative to use (If I wasn't using it correctly, please let me know)
- - The game lets you simply reload the game and choose a new suspect if you pick the wrong one, making everything you've done up until that point kinda pointless
- - The 'tutorial' (your boss talking to you) explains most things, but a small tutorial run-through of the game would have helped, especially in how to effectively use the case board to come to a solid conclusion
- - I would have loved a random case mode which randomised the killer, but it hasn't got one. So, although the encounters you have are random, the outcome remains the same in each of the three cases.