Night Call

A film noir-like mur­der mys­tery where you’re a taxi driver

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - Lewis Pack­wood

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.

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