Games

Night Book – Game Review

Wales Interactive are back once again with their latest FMV offering – Night Book. They’ve got quite the track record in this space now, having brought us, among many others, the post-apocalyptic The Bunker, the heist movie/game Last Shift, murder mystery The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker and sci-fi/medical thriller The Complex.

Night Book is solidly in the horror camp, as the player follows the story of Loralyn (Julie Dray – Avenue 5, Crashing). She’s working as an online interpreter/translator with a specialism in somewhat obscure languages, while also looking after her father Alecis, (Mark Wingett – Quadrophenia, Ransom’s Law) who is apparently suffering from an unspecified mental illness.

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One night she is brought in to help negotiate a deal between Vito (Colin Salmon – Resident Evil, Arrow) and Theron (Jonathan Cullen – The Foreigner, Velvet Goldmine) for the purchase of a very particular book. None of the people involved in this deal have ever watched The Evil Dead, and Loralyn is made to translate a part of the book out loud to prove its authenticity. From this point on the story descends into a race against time as Loralyn must work to seal away what she has inadvertently unleashed from the book before it destroys everyone around her.

As an FMV game, Night Book plays out in the form of an interactive movie, with the player periodically being made to pick between two options at specific points of the story. Some of the questions have consequences for how the story will play out and which of the fifteen different endings the player will find. These questions can also impact a “relationship” statistic that’s tracked through the game, showing whether or not Loralyn has good or bad relationships with the other characters – though it’s not entirely clear how that directly impacts the storyline. Perhaps a good relationship means characters are more willing to help, or more likely to survive?

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In a normal playthrough there is a timer running on these decisions, giving only a short time for the player to make their mind up, but there is a “streamer mode” in the options menu that disables the timer, presumably giving the player/streamer time to ask their chat which option they should choose.  On the first playthrough the player must watch every scene though; thankfully, further playthroughs allow the player to skip through any viewed scenes, which means that by a third or fourth playthrough, the game can be completed in less than twenty minutes!

So what about the acting? As an interactive movie, Night Book stands or falls on whether or not we, the player, actually care about any of the people in it. All in all it’s pretty decent, with special mention given to both the characters of Alecis and Theron. Alecis, especially, has to not only play himself but also portray his possession by the evil spirits, and he does it well. He’s genuinely quite creepy to watch in some of his scenes. The production values are also really high for a game filmed entirely remotely during lockdown, each actor filming their own parts, each responsible for their own continuity, lighting and make-up. Hats off to both the actors and to developer Good Gate Media who have put together a lovely, story for us all to enjoy.

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So is there anything that doesn’t work? Any reason that people shouldn’t already be reaching for their wallets to buy this game? Well… it’s short. REALLY short. My first no-scene-skip playthrough took less than three hours, which is almost half the time it took me to complete The Complex. But then FMV games don’t tend to be particularly long, and given the limitations of Covid-19 perhaps it simply wasn’t practical to try to make a long game. There is also plenty of replay value here. On my first playthrough, for example, there were two characters whose story I completely missed, and even now I still haven’t managed to find over half the endings!

The short running time is offset by a very modest price tag. It can be picked up for the princely sum of £9.99 on the Steam store, which is definitely a bargain. Wales Interactive have a niche, a niche they’re very comfortable in, and that’s a damnn good thing for us when they continue to release great new FMV games like this.

Night Book is out now on PC, PS4/5, Xbox X,S,X1, Switch, Mac & iOS from Wales Interactive.

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