Previewed on PC
Night Call shows us a welcome new take on what it means to be a cab driver. For the longest time, the world has only seen taxi drivers of the crazy variety, where racing as quickly as possible to pick up and drop of passengers is the name of the game.
Night Call however, shows us a different side of taxi driving that’s all about the gift of the gab, the art form of cabby chit chat.
In Night Call, a serial killer is stalking the streets of Paris, where you work your usual dusk to dawn job as a humble cab driver. Your simple life is thrown into jeopardy, however, after witnessing a grisly murder and surviving an attack yourself. Whether you wanted to be or not, your life becomes part of the case, forever involved as one more in a string of victims.
As the police’s case starts to dwindle, you’re forcibly recruited to tackle the case yourself thanks to your unique viewpoint on the world. At the threat of having your life ruined, and the past you tried to escape coming back to haunt you, you have no choice but to accept.
Thankfully with your position as an unassuming cab driver, you’re able to continue the investigation by talking to each of the passengers you pick up.
When your meter is running, you’ll have the choice of who to pick up and talk to, before deciding what you say to them through Night Call’s dialogue system. This lets you learn stories, uncover clues, follow leads and solve this case for yourself, so the life you have built can be safe.
Similar to Papers Please, you won’t just be working for the sake of the story. Instead, the money you earn will factor into your survival as you fight to keep your head above water. Luckily, your job as a cabbie will provide for you, so long as you go to the right jobs and make the most of your money. Unfortunately, that won’t always be possible, as the case you’re being forced to complete in tandem with your job will leave you with conflicting priorities.
As each new job arises, you’ll have to choose which passenger you pick up. Do you pick up the passenger who’ll give you enough to survive? Or one who’ll give you a new lead in the case?
Developing the case won’t just rely on choosing the right passengers and then sitting back to watch the clues and intel roll in. Instead you’ll be using the choice-based dialogue system, to ask the right questions during the journey to get clues and relevant information out of your passengers.
It’ll then be up to you to apply what you’ve heard and follow the leads to get more information about the suspects and develop the case further. Similar to Hypnospace Outlaw – which showed us how good detective games can be – it’ll be up to you to investigate and work through clues yourself, rather than just being spoon fed information.
Even after a long day of driving comes to an end, your day is not over. Once you get back to your apartment, your job is to look over the information and clues gathered during your day at work and make connections that will further your case.
Your time in which to do this is limited, however, so your choices of what you analyze and pin up onto your crime mood board matter, as each case detail of bit of information will take up some of your precious time.
Keeping time as such a finite resource keeps the gameplay feeling tense, even at the games relatively slow pace. Thanks to this, Night Call feels like an interactive thriller, where it is not only the serial killer looming down on Paris, but the threat of your limited time looming over you.
Even with Night Call being set-in modern-day Paris, the film noire aesthetic makes it feel like you’ve stepped into a detective serial from the 1940’s. This predominantly monochromatic pallet makes the game feel dark and eerie, as though you’re peering into the dark underbelly of the city through the lens of the cab. However, Night Call still knows when to use color to bring detail and life into the game world, which brings some contrast to the otherwise bleak world that is presented.
Even whilst the time I had with Night Call was brief, it showed a lot of promise, as a slow gripping thriller, and will certainly be one to look out for when it releases in the summer on Stream and consoles.