Play as a taxi driver who after being attacked by a serial killer terrorising Paris is trying to work out which of his suspects is the killer in question. Based on your not so shiny background, the detective is threatening to pin the crimes on you, so not only are you doing a good deed for the city, you’re also trying to clear your name. Night Call has you picking up passengers, driving around Paris in order to gather clues and pull together as much evidence as you can to put this nightmare to rest. But be careful, you also don’t want to make your investigation too obvious and make the killer attempt to finish the job.
When you start a new game, you choose the investigation, which is based on how randomised the playthrough is going to play out. This can also be construed as another form of difficulty, but is done so with much more precision and explanation for the player. However with that being said, the game also contains more standard difficulty options, being Story, Balanced and Hard. All of this allows the player to cater the experience to their own personal level, however it can make it can also make it feel more confronting at first.
The playthroughs take approximately 4-5 hours, which is made up of one week in-game. Within the week, you are tasked with gathering as much evidence as possible in order to find the killer and clear your name. With each playthrough, there are five suspects to be suspicious of. The map shows people who are looking for a ride and will highlight if any of these potential passengers are suspects of the case. You want to prioritise these passengers, however you also want to ensure that you for one, earn enough to afford to live and two, are wary of whether to fill up at the nearest gas station.
You can play the game as free-roaming if you’d prefer, which allows you to pickup other characters that you haven’t previously been able to. When playing as free roaming, your interactions won’t go toward an investigation however considering that there are 89 passengers to interact with in the entire game, this then allows you to meet more characters.
Unfortunately, the software crashed twice during approximately 10 hours of playtime. Each autosave checkpoint occurs at the start of a day and with each lasting approximately 40 minutes, that’s a lot of progress that can be lost. I also ran into the occasional bug that wouldn’t allow me to choose a new case unless I closed and reopen the menu. The latter is a small complaint, but these are touchups that will need to be addressed in future updates, nonetheless.
Another small frustration I encountered was when I went to view the Passidex, an index of the passengers that you have met whilst playing the game. I noticed that when I moved my joystick, nothing would highlight which became quite frustrating when playing in docked mode as I couldn’t just select each passenger via the touch screen. It’s small quality of life issues such as these that made Night Call a less enjoyable experience as a whole.
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The Switch iteration of Night Call is the first touchscreen version of the game as it has only been previously released on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. The touch controls would be based around the Steam build and yet, being able to play it without any controllers or physical buttons actually seems like a perfect fit for it. Night Call isn’t a particularly complex game in regards to its control scheme so either physical buttons or touchscreen is fine, but having the option is welcome.
Story / Personality
Night Call‘s premise isn’t exactly new, with a similar concept to many driving simulators recently having come to market. However, Night Call appears to do this better than most, with murder intrigue in an ominous depiction of Paris.
Each passenger has their own quirks, making them memorable and stand out from one another. Whether it’s listening in on the conversation between your two female passengers as they discuss sperm donors or a man in his later years with a less than colourful opinion about the inhabitants of the city, each ride had a whole new story to offer which kept me engaged.
Night Call‘s cutscenes are few and far between, but they’re impressive for what they are and do a great job of capturing the game’s dank and dreary themes with its monochromatic aesthetic. Most cutscenes purely act to set the scene, featuring moving camera shots out of the window of your taxi. They’re well done with great attention to detail, so much so that I sometimes stopped to wonder whether they were compressed FMVs (full motion video).
Graphics / Art Direction
The entire game uses a monochromatic art style that replicates a classic comic book/manga aesthetic. It makes its characters and scenery pop, being a preferred art style choice for many previous indie titles. In addition, the dreary approach gives Paris a cold and lifeless feeling, amplifying themes of loneliness and melancholy. This style also allows the game to point the player’s attention towards specific actions, meaning that on the map, suspect passengers are highlighted with a yellow pulse.
The character models feel crude but charming, with monochromatic cel-shading presentation that allows each of them to stand out in a bleak depiction of Paris. Lighting is also cleverly used to provide detailed shadowing, enhancing the depth that a black and white presentation can accomplish.
A negative point to its visual design is the Suspect Board which, at first glance, seemed very cluttered and unintuitive. This board allows you to physically map out your evidence which is essential for solving the mystery of each playthrough’s killer, but it all became overwhelming and unintuitive.
Music / Sound Design
For the most part, Night Call doesn’t put much emphasis on its soundtrack. In fact, it’s hard to call its music a “soundtrack” as although there are short musical pieces here and there, you’ll primarily be listening to ambient sounds and the depressing hubbub of city life. The game is also completely void of any voice acting which is understandable considering its extensive dialogue.
Final Score: 78%
Night Call brings out the best of a dreary and depressing depiction of Paris with colourful personalities and a fascinating premise. The writing in conjunction with the gameplay creates what is undoubtedly one of the better (if not best) driving simulation visual novels that is available on the Nintendo Switch. This doesn’t mean however that it is without flaw; there are certainly some aspects of the game that diminished my time with it, such as the few bugs that I ran into and its convoluted Suspect Board. Although for a game that has a lot of replayability, these negative aspects, while frustrating, were easy to overlook thanks to Night Call‘s charm.
Thank you for checking out our Night Call Switch review, thank you to Raw Fury for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
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