Night Call Review: A Mostly Enjoyable Neo-Noir Murder Mystery

by David Sanchez July 7, 2020 @ 1:22 pm

Night Call adventure game for Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch

There’s a lot to like about Night Call, a story-driven neo noir adventure game that puts you behind the wheel of a taxi cab in a dreary France setting. First available on PC, Night Call has just made its way to console. The Switch version is especially nice as it allows you to experience the story on a big or small screen — even if that story does tend to drag at times. Thankfully, the mystery tale told here is, for the most part, highly enjoyable.

There’s a Killer on the Loose

Night Call is set in a dark and brooding Paris. A serial killer walks the streets, leaving several victims behind. As the only survivor of the killer’s attacks, you’re quickly wrapped up — and threatened — into a police scheme to catch the killer.

Your only leads are the customers riding your taxi. Along the way you’ll meet a lot of characters, many of whom are oddballs, as well as some really mysterious folks who could be hiding deep, dark secrets. It’s up to you to discern what’s what and piece together any and all information you can get from these customers.

Night Call gameplay.

Gameplay in Night Call is split up into two parts. The first is the cab driving. Here you’ll pick up fares, have extensive conversations with these people, and collect info on what’s going on in the city as your character automatically drives customers. You’ll also use your earned cash to pump gas from time to time.

Unlike Neo Cab — which also revolves around driving people around town — the characters in Night Call are a bit of a mixed bag in terms of realism. You’ll have some great interactions, but a lot of times you’ll also run into characters that are a bit cartoon-y. For a game that’s pretty dark in tone, these moments don’t fit to well with the rest of the story. In addition, some character interactions can drag on for a while, which can become a problem when some characters aren’t particularly interesting.

Even then, the writing in Night Call is mostly really good. Interactions are engaging, dialogue options are solid, and connecting with the better-written characters is delightful. You could make the argument that some voice acting would have worked really well here, but because the writing stands on its own, voice work isn’t all that necessary.

Night Call investigation gameplay.

The other aspect of Night Call is its crime-solving gameplay. In between your night shifts, you’ll go back to your place and piece together all of your clues to try and figure out who the killer is. You’ll take everything you know and attempt to match these details with different suspects. These moments are kind of cool for the most part — partially because you’re matching everything on a cork board, which is a nice touch, but also because it really gives you a hands-on investigative experience.

Unfortunately, as fun as doing the detective work can be at times, it can also be overwhelming. This is especially true when you’re trying to match dozens of clues with just a handful of suspects. Things get especially hectic the further you play, which can sometimes make it damn near impossible to figure out who the culprit may be.

You’re also working against the clock, with only a week of in-game time to try and figure out who the killer is. This adds a sense of urgency that’s equal parts gripping and stressful. It’s cool in terms of the story, but the problem is that when you’re struggling to figure out who the killer is, you may find yourself running out of time and forced to guess. If you’re wrong about who you think is responsible, the murders are pinned on you, which can also lead to some annoyance.

Neo-Noir Cab Driving

Night Call character interactions.

What really gives Night Call its personality is its presentation. The game is entirely in black-and-white, with hand-drawn character designs and a rainy Paris acting as the backdrop. The game’s noir comic book look gives it life, and it helps to really capture the dark narrative that slowly unfolds. The music, which is often synth-y and moody, further helps to paint the gritty landscape.

There are three cases in Night Call. They’re all procedurally generated and present the story in different ways, but for the most part, a lot remains the same in terms of your actions. There’s also Free Roam mode, which allows you to drive around the streets of Paris at a leisurely pace and just enjoy the character interactions. It’s a nice touch, especially if you don’t want to get too wrapped up in the crime-solving aspect.

You’ll have a lot of fun with the narrative and crime themes of Night Call, even if the game doesn’t pull a lot of this stuff off without a hitch. There are definitely bumps in the road, but if you enjoy visual novels, adventure games, or just a good noir story, you’ll dig what the game does. It doesn’t always do it well, but Night Call still mostly succeeds at capturing the vibe of a murder mystery in quite a strong fashion.

Score: 7 out of 10

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