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  • John Bush

Game Review #536: Night Call (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: Monkey Moon, BlackMuffin Studio

Publisher: Raw Fury

Category: Narrative Adventure

Release Date: 6.24.2020

Price: $19.99

Watch the Trailer

Buy Night Call from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Taxi Cab Confessions

Night Call for the Nintendo Switch is a wonderfully stylish noir narrative adventure that sees players take on the role of a cab driver with seven days to catch a serial killer while trying to get by in Paris on a cab driver’s salary. There are three different serial killer cases to solve, with increasing levels of difficulty and different solutions. Players will gather information and evidence from passengers, items left in the cab, and from stopping and investigating points of interest. There’s also a mode where you can just drive around, pick up fares, and hear their stories, which is frequently every bit as interesting as tracking down leads for your case.

The Judge, The Angel, and the Sandman

The three different cases are for finding serial killers known as the Judge, the Angel of Death, and the Sandman. The setup for your character is basically the same every time; you are newly back in your cab after a short hospital stay. Whichever serial killer you’re following is the one that put you in the hospital – your last passenger was their most recent victim, too. A police detective named Busset uses your questionable legal past to basically blackmail you into helping her track down the killer as a confidential informant, and off you go. I’m a huge believer in the power of narrative-driven games, and Night Call does a good job of justifying that faith. The writing style is simple, direct, natural, and effective; reminiscent of noir greats like Chandler and Hammett.

For such a tense storyline as a hunt for a serial killer, the game is surprisingly laid back, but I consider that one of its strongest selling points. The somber, black and white graphics pair with a smooth, reflective soundtrack to provide the perfect atmosphere for a chill, noir atmosphere. The majority of your fares won’t really have anything to do with the case you’re tracking; a lot of the fares you pick up will simply give you a brief glimpse into their lives. As such, Night Call often plays out like something of a short story anthology about people simply learning to live their lives in a world that too-often doesn’t take the time to understand individuals that don’t fit neatly enough into prescribed roles.

Just Drive

As far as gameplay goes, there really isn’t too much to do. Most of the action you control takes place on a map of Paris. Fares, gas stations, and points of interest in your case can all be selected as a destination. Picking up fares gets you money, some cool stories, and sometimes even some new evidence. You can chat with gas station attendants, fill up your car, or buy a newspaper to read at the station, and points of interest generally only give you a short scene exploring the area and introducing new evidence. You have a set amount of time every night to get your fares in; the farther the passenger wants to go, the more time it takes, but you also get more money. At the end of the night, the game totals your income with your expenses for the shift. If you run out of money before the week is up, that’s a game over.

After your shift, you go back to your apartment and can check on your evidence board. Busset usually sets you up with a few suspects at the beginning of the game, and any evidence you collect will be added to the board and connected to any suspect to which it applies. Some evidence has to be read first, which uses up some of your free time at night. Then you go to bed and it’s time to start another night on the streets. The gameplay loop is not at all complicated, but that’s fine; this game is about narrative exploration, and it only has as much gameplay as it needs to tell its many stories. And that’s absolutely fine with me.

Night Call is the Right Call

Night Call is not the most involved game in the world, but that doesn’t make it any less engrossing. The barebones noir atmosphere is absolutely gorgeous, and makes for an exquisite vehicle for the personal, fascinating stories that unfold within it. The writing is sharp and insightful without ever feeling too flowery or overwritten. The investigative element and the ticking clock of Busset’s deadline add just enough tension to the proceedings to create a sense of urgency to the game if you want one, but meeting the citizenry of Paris without the threat of jail hanging over your head is just as fascinating as tracking down a killer. If you’re looking for a top-notch narrative experience that you can relax and enjoy at your own pace, you won’t do any better than Night Call.

Score: 8.5/10

Buy Night Call from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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