The streets of Paris, the iconic capital of France, are treacherous at nighttime. A serial killer roams the city streets and you're his or her next victim. You wake up in a hospital with a doctor trying to speak to you. The doctor can be heard speaking to a woman but you're too out of it to make out what they're saying or who the woman is. Your head hurts and you have trouble focusing as you snap out of your post-anaesthetic haze. You come to and the doctor tells you that you fell victim to the known serial killer known as "The Judge" and adds that you're the first-ever surviving victim.
After some time in the hospital, you go back to work where your boss re-teaches you the ropes while the comfort of his genuine care for you eases you into the narrative. You've been through a trauma and everyone knows it. You've missed working the night shift, despite the attack.
You learn more about your passengers but also about yourself as an investigator gets in your cab. She notes that she can't picture you as the killer, even though you were sent to prison for murder at the ripe age of 17. She asks you to work for her, gathering information about the case she's working on, which is, incidentally, the case file on your attacker.
Night Call, the narrative-focused noir game inspired by real events and developed by Monkey Moon and Black Muffin, begins in a rather dark way indeed, and while dark, it holds a unique and soothing charm hidden in its various dialogue sequences. The game has you, a driver for the Taxi Parisien cab company, hold conversations with your passengers, sometimes just to pass the time, earn some money, and generally bond with some of the many genuinely interesting characters within the game. After meeting up with a female investigator who takes a seat in your taxi, however, your mission takes a turn. As it turns out, this investigator was the lady speaking to your doctor as you woke up after your attack and she tells you that, while her boss and her colleagues consider you a suspect in the Judge case, she does not and she needs your help to prove it. From here on out, you work for her and will get handed information from her through case files sent to your apartment. To get on her good side, to clear your name and to put the killer behind bars, you have to interrogate your passengers as you take on fares across town, drawing information from them in a tactful and discreet manner.
You do this strictly through dialogue with your passengers, by reading the newspaper, by investigating specific areas of interest, and by calling the investigator every now and then after putting the pieces together. Calling the investigator results in her coming to a conclusion about the case.
Night Call has a distinct, unique art style with images resembling slightly animated still paintings or black and white visual novel art. The map of the city resembles that of a rideshare service that follows the taxi by marking it with an arrow, passengers with an image, points of interest with an eye symbol and petrol stations with a pump. The latter is present within the game because of the simple reason that you have to keep your car fuelled, but you can also buy newspapers and lottery tickets here. There's no voice acting either, only music and sound effects, adding to the visual novel feel of this stunning game.
Once you get to a point where the investigation board in your apartment is starting to fill up, you get to pair clues together with your suspects using your deduction skills, letting you make a decision on who to accuse of the crime you're investigating. Your actions take time as well, so you can't drive everyone around during a shift and there may come a time where you can't even go through all of your documents, so use your time wisely.
One thing to note, however, is the fact that many of the passengers you meet are non-integral to the case and some of them take up a lot of your time. While working the night shift we drove around various strange individuals like, for example, a cat fleeing his overly affectionate owner in the night and a vision of a woman from the future. Some of these, we found disconnected us from the general existential and deep narrative, which was annoying but at the same time, maybe one needs a break after experiencing dark stories in a dark city.
In the beginning, you have to pick a case and a difficulty level. The cases include "The Judge" (where the motives seem clear), which is the one recommended to beginners and the one we recapped earlier, "The Angel of Death" (where the motive is unknown and the victims are randomised), "The Sandman" (where the victims appear random at first glance, the motives are harder to find), "Surprise Investigation" (where the investigation is randomised) and finally "Random Investigation (all)" (where everything is randomised).
The one thing that really intrigued us was how deep the connections you formed with your passengers could become depending on how you treated them, whether that was leaving someone alone for a moment and letting them breathe, probing someone to open up, or being completely truthful with someone. The way the narrative is written really does make you feel like you have an impact on other people's lives. The dialogue is incredibly well done. Some may call it pretentious but we'd prefer to call it unique.
If you couldn't tell, we had a great time with Night Call. The visuals work incredibly well with both the narrative and the feel of the game, immersing the player from start to finish and the investigations are well-put-together and fun to conclude. If you're looking for a game to get lost in or if you're looking to do some investigative work in a noir setting, Night Call is a great game for you to check out.