A Case Of Repetition

HIGH It’s a unique take on the detective genre.

LOW The three cases are very similar to each other.

WTF Being a popular cab driver in Paris isn’t profitable?

My first impression after playing Night Call’s demo was that it told an unconventional detective story about trying to ID a mass murderer via a cab driver’s subtle interrogation of his passengers. However, the full version reveals that the devs have repeated themselves by adding two additional cases with different suspects and offenders. What started out as intriguing became repetitious and fatiguing — a chore, instead of the immersive investigation initially suggested.

This dialogue-fueled adventure begins as a Parisian taxi driver awakens from a coma. He’s the only surviving victim of a serial killer, but he’s got a checkered past and the police want to use him to aid their investigation. The player (as the driver) has six nights of investigation to solve the case and accuse the true culprit before he’s arrested himself.

Investigations take the form of a menu-based minigame in which the player manages the driver’s cash, gas and time while collecting information via conversing with passengers. A convenient map of Paris is displayed in the background with potential passengers’ profiles shown if they’re in the area. Additional icons show gas stations and points of interest with additional evidence, available after learning more information about the killer or his victims.

At the end of a night, the player can view what eventually becomes a web of links between observations, evidence and suspects. Data such as the killer’s estimated height or potential links to victims will correspond to suspects via a visible line drawn between the evidence and suspect profile. Other, more unspecified evidence doesn’t link to anything but feels like it exists to help the player interpret the evidence that does. The player then sorts the available evidence by dragging and placing it on the Paris map.

This structure seems to suggest a robust adventure, and I got to know most of the passengers roaming Paris during the first case. However, I was disappointed to learn that the customers are mainly the same in the other two cases, meaning that I had to have the exact same conversations in entirely different storylines.

Another frustrating aspect of Night Call is that the driver has to ‘survive’ six days without running out of money, which leads to a Game Over. This frequently shifted my focus from investigating the case to earning cash. I found the emphasis on this virtual economy to be a bad idea, especially since hustling for dollars meant seeing more of the already-repetitive clients and their conversations, and that’s not even taking into account the times the game crashed, forcing me to replay large portions of a night. Sometimes I’d have to repeat 30 minutes to regain lost ground.

While Night Call frequently stumbles, it does get its theming right. The Parisian noir detective scene is mysterious and dimly lit, with the Eiffel Tower often being the only realized building in the background. The NPCs are convincingly strange and give the sense that they’re constantly hiding something from the player. It was all successful in keeping me guessing.

Unfortunately, the story in Night Call failed to come together for me. I thought the taxi driver’s identity would be the true mystery after waking from his coma at the start thanks to frequent mentions of the driver’s amnesia and “dark past”. Sadly, the unveiling of the driver’s identity (as well as the original killer’s) were disappointing, and the existence of other cases muddied the dramatic waters. At the end, I felt like I learned little, and that my efforts were for nothing. 

Night Call has the potential, setting, characters and plot to be an epic noir detective title, but instead of capitalizing on it, the developers feel like they’re too in love with the taxi driver premise to let the best aspects shine through. Instead of using my cunning to find a killer, I spent more time worrying about money and hearing the same conversations over and over. What started as a journey of intrigue and secrets quickly became underwhelming repetition.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Disclosures: Night Call was developed by Monkey Moon and Black Muffin, and published by Raw Fury. It is available on XBO and PC. This copy of the game was reviewed on PC and obtained via publisher. Approximately 9 hours (3 per storyline) were devoted to the game and it was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: Night Call has been rated M by the ESRB for Mature Themes and Strong Language. There are no explicitly cruel or sexual scenes, but the dialogue concerns sex, violence, abuse, murder and terminal diseases.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled and there are no audio cues needed for play. Subtitles are resizable. This title is fully accessible.

Remappable controls: The controls of this game are not remappable and consist of only mouse controls, with the left mouse button being used to choose menu options and navigate the map. The right mouse button is used to end a night or cancel a mode, and the scroll button can scroll through evidence or toggle automatic pacing of dialogue.

David Bakker
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