A film noir-like murder mystery where you’re a taxi driver
tonally, it does a great job of channelling the spirit of classic film noir tales
There’s been a murder in Paris, and it’s up to you to crack the case. But in Night Call you’re not some hardboiled private detective—you’re a taxi driver in a trench coat. And you’ll need to earn cash to pay bills at the same time as solving clues. The game is split into two sections. In the first part, you spend the night driving freely through Paris, picking up passengers and listening to their stories, some of which might give hints about your investigation. You can also visit murder scenes and call sources, but time spent doing this means you aren’t working, so it comes at the expense of earning money. You’ll have to keep an eye on your bank balance to make sure you can afford gas and pay for your taxi licence and bills: If you go bankrupt or fail to find the murderer in time, it’s game over.
The second section is deduction. Back home, you piece together all the information you’ve gathered during the night to see where it leads. On each playthrough, the murderer will change, and there are multiple endings. With more than 75 unique passengers on the streets of Paris, your investigation will differ wildly depending to who you meet.
Laurent Victorino is the brain behind NightCall. He departed from large-scale game development to found the indie studio MonkeyMoon in Lyon, and he’s been working on the game for the past year in partnership with the nearby BlackMuffin Studio. As you’d expect, Victorino cites his influences as crime authors like Georges Simenon, Ruth Rendell, and Elmore Leonard, as well as movies such as Taxi Driver and Collateral. But he also says that NightCall has been guided by videogames like the Shin MegamiTensei and Persona series, The WolfAmongUs and, “most important of all”, Papers,Please.
The influence of these games can, according to Victorino, be seen in the varied characters that populate night-time Paris, each with their own “life, joys, problems, and stories to tell”. He was inspired to make a game set in a taxi because, he thinks, it’s an intimate setting where people can relax and open up about things they might normally keep hidden. “You’re there, with a complete stranger for a few minutes, and each of you know that you will probably never meet again. We needed to show the passengers in a safe place. A place where they could share their life and intimacy with a cab driver without having to fear the judgment or the possible consequences of what they say.”
CITY OF SADNESS
NightCall was revealed with a striking trailer at this year’s E3. Almost entirely in black and white, the video ticks off the film noir tropes of moodily smoking under neon, a city reflected in rainwater, streets in shadow pierced by lamplight, all soundtracked by a morose, insistent beat. Victorino says he wanted to depict Paris as he knows it, “not the sublime cliché people think it is”. For him, the black and white look was integral to his vision of the city. “It’s a gorgeous place, full of lights and love, but it’s also a dark one, full of sadness and cries.”
NightCall promises a nonlinear narrative with huge scope for replayability thanks to the variation in the nocturnal souls you encounter. And tonally, it does a great job of channeling the spirit of classic film noir tales like Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, transposed onto Paris. Still, in a game so focused on tiny, intimate conversations, the great test it faces will be creating a cast of memorable characters from so little—not to mention tying all these loose threads together to make a coherent story.
There are more than 75 passengers in the game.