Night Call is a modern noir mystery from Monkey Moon and Black Muffin that puts you in the shoes of a taxi driver recovering from a brutal attack by a serial killer.
The first few minutes of the game efficiently establish Night Call’s premise, as you wake up from a coma in the hospital after a killer almost took your life. Your doctor tells you as much before you’re returned to your night job as a cab driver in Paris. There’s some heavy-handed exposition as your boss explains the point-and-click gameplay while also mentioning that you’re like a son to him. Your boss then disappears for the rest of the game.
Most of Night Call revolves around conversations with the passengers you transport around Paris. Some passengers you select yourself, while the occasional passenger enters your cab unsolicited. One such passenger in the opening moments of the game is a cop who, quite unpleasantly, enlists your help in uncovering the identity of the serial killer who nearly murdered you. She gives you some files to comb for clues, and it’s also possible to pick up clues from your various passengers and from consulting relevant contacts.
For the most part, this is a passive process. The crux of Night Call truly rests on idle conversation that has little to do with the mystery itself. Your passengers can be charming, introspective, quiet, irritating and more. One is a struggling student, another a high-powered politician, another is a poet, yet another is a particularly precocious cat. A great many are feeling suffocated by their parents. Like any assortment of random encounters, these are a mixed bag. Some of the dialogue comes off as a cringeworthy attempt at exploring the human condition, while some of it allows you a quiet, introspective moment to mull over the triumphs and struggles of your passengers. In all, I deeply enjoyed whisking night-owls around Paris in the dark, never knowing what the next fare would bring.
However, if you’re in it for the murder mystery more than the dialogue, Night Call might disappoint. The investigation and analysis require very little engagement from the player at all, simply appearing as a jumble of clues on your bedroom wall. Upon reviewing these clues in relation to the suspects, you speculate upon who the killer could be, culminating in a final conversation with the cop who enlisted your help. Despite the lack of substantive sleuthing, the final scenes of the game are satisfying, enough so that I was eager to play through another case.
But when I selected the next mystery from the menu, I found myself cycling through all the same introductory dialogue again. Even then, I held out hope that perhaps the passengers would be different, allowing me an opportunity to hear new anecdotes. Again, I found myself disappointed, as it appears that the city-dwellers are recycled from case to case. Clicking through highly repetitive dialogue just to see a handful of new clues on a corkboard was unfortunately not compelling enough to hold my attention for a second playthrough.
Ultimately, Night Call is a better taxi game than it is a mystery game. That said, if you want a couple of thoughtful hours filled with eccentric passengers, Night Call is sure to hit the spot.
You can find Night Call on Steam.