You’re a taxi driver and a known serial killer attacks you. Do you go back to the job?
It’s a tough question. Going back will surely be difficult, and you’ll feel unsafe just letting anyone off the street into your cab, right? Especially since you didn’t see the killer’s face. He or she could climb back in and finish the job. This won’t be the only decision you’ll have a hard time making in Night Call from developers Monkey Moon SARL and BlackMuffin. In the game you play as a night shift cab driver on the streets of Paris picking up passengers and driving them to their destination while also helping the police find the murderer at large.
Night Call doesn’t give you much time to get used to things before you’re on the street and heading to pick up your first fare. You play as Houssine, the only living victim of Paris’ well-known serial killer. Unfortunately, you also happen to be a key suspect; you only have a week to find the culprit or you’ll be charged with multiple homicides. The police give you clues to try to help you along, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. You’re not a cop, after all; you’re just a cab driver trying to make ends meet.
“Night Call’s funny moments are subtle and strange and make for some interesting dialogue options”
The majority of Night Call takes place in your cab. At the start of your shift you’ll be shown a map of Paris as well as people that are waiting to be picked up. You can usually choose to pick up whoever you want, but there are some exceptions. Within the first hour of the game I’d picked up and driven a stray cat who wanted to get out of town quickly and a group of four drunk men dressed as Power Rangers looking for their friend “Ultra Yellow”. Night Call’s funny moments are subtle and strange and make for some interesting dialogue options.
But when you’re not picking up cats or Power Rangers, you’ll also be picking up average-looking people who may or may not be suspected of being the serial killer. You’ll have to talk to specific passengers in a way that gets you more information without raising suspicion. At the end of your shift, you return home where you can sort through any evidence you gathered that day.
“The path to the end is intriguing enough that you might not care whether you win or lose”
Night Call can feel a little overwhelming at times, especially when it seems like you’re only picking up people that don’t relate to the killer in any way. I had a particularly long conversation with a man going to pick up women at the airport and couldn’t wait to get him out of my cab so I could do something important (he left a crappy tip too). You’ll have to really be careful about who you pick up and how much time you want to spend with them. You constantly feel the pressure of time; the nights aren’t very long and if you’ve learned nothing to help the investigation, that’s that.
There are a few different cases to choose from in Night Call, each with varying difficulties. For my first case, I chose the easiest path to learn the ropes. Normal feels like much of the same, but the harder difficulty really relies on you putting on your tightest thinking cap. Even then, you’ll likely find yourself making a blind guess at the end. Success can often feel like dumb luck; I only solved one case correctly, and that was because I happened to ask the right question to one of my passengers. It’s unfortunate that Night Call doesn’t give players the satisfaction of always putting the case together and solving it, but the path to the end is intriguing enough that you might not care whether you win or lose.
“As a concept, Night Call is fantastic”
The passengers you encounter while playing Night Call feel like real people. You might meet a woman who is overwhelmed with her job and just wants to feel alive; or a gentleman that doesn’t want to talk and appreciates you giving him the silence he needs. The conversations can be random, but some of them are also heartfelt and lovely. Read between the lines of the dialogue and you might just learn some life lessons. While the game’s black and white aesthetic makes many of the encounters feel sinister, you’ll soon grow comfortable in the atmosphere and with each new night you’ll be ready to go out there and investigate.
As a concept, Night Call is fantastic; a narrative noir where you play as a cab driver on the dark streets of Paris is something that many people will want to pick up and give a try – and they definitely should. But I’m not sure how many people will be able to really stick with it and master it. As intriguing as its cases are, after you’ve played a few they all blend together, making it even harder to figure out what you’re meant to be doing. Give Night Call a try if you’re looking for a challenging narrative game about crime and investigation. But if you’re wanting an easy-going mystery, you won’t find it here.