Paris at night, a cabbie and a cop. A shadowy past, an unfortunate
encounter, a corner backed into. And a serial killer. Blackmail; either
play ball and help identify the killer or get banged up. So it’s back
behind the wheel and into the night, trawling the streets for fares and
Night Call is broody, sultry, black and white noir. There are great
bits, not bad bits and repetitive bits, mainly hits but also some
misses, but it is ultimately well worth the drive.
Pick a case to start (there are three) then a difficulty level
(story, balanced or hard). Balanced is the self-proclaimed way the game
is meant to be played, and who am I to disagree. Except I reckon that
playing for the first time on the story setting will allow the best bits
to stand out, and enable you to better settle into the game.
Let me explain.
An aspect of the game is resource management. Fares are how you make
money, so you need to get people into the cab. You can see where the
would be passengers are on your map, but you don’t know where they are
going until you arrive. Travelling halfway across Paris for a minor fare
may simply not be worth the expenditure on petrol, but refusing the fare
will leave you with no return on the investment unless there is another
possible fare close by. And not everyone pays (or can pay). Tips help,
so it can pay to be accommodating, but cab driving is not a lucrative
Petrol is the main commodity you will need to buy, but you can also
purchase newspapers and lottery tickets, as well as information, some of
which is far from cheap. The game plays out over 7 nights, and your
shift each night lasts from 10pm until about 4am. At the end of the
shift there will be an economic reconciliation, which will see money
deducted for a range of expenses as well as the owner’s cut. Hopefully
there will be money left in your balance. If there isn’t, your boss
takes the taxi and your license and its game over. You can choose to
start from the beginning of the particular night, or try again from the
beginning of the case.
Time passes as well. You can’t manage it, but you have to be aware
of it. Once the clock ticks over to 4am, you get returned to your flat,
and whatever you have earned is it. There is no capacity to stay out
longer to seek more fares, so depending on how you spent the evening you
might be short of funds.
I like managing resources, but when I first began playing (having
chosen the balanced setting) I found that I was focussed on these things
to the detriment of the passenger conversations. These are key to
uncovering potentially useful information, and provide the heart of what
the game has to offer. I therefore started again on the story setting,
in which money is more plentiful, the investigation is easier, and
actions take less time (according to the menu). It was indeed a “chiller”
experience; there was very little need to provide more than cursory
attention to resources, and I could fully engage with the rich tapestry
of tales coming from the back seat.
Most were wonderfully written, and the passengers and their
circumstances covered the full panoply of Parisian inhabitants. The
homeless, the privileged, and everyone in between climbs in, some drunk,
some afflicted in various ways, some not even human or real. They might
be angry, sad, joyful, conflicted or vengeful. They might be looking for
inspiration, or just a ride to the airport. Some swear, others have
gritty tales to share, and for many it’s a back-seat confessional.
There are 75 characters in all, and you won’t meet all of them in
the course of a single case. I had about a third of them in my cab over
the course of the first one, some more than once. You can keep tabs on
who you have met and a bit of what you have learned about them through
the menu screen. While some were better than others, I thoroughly
enjoyed the conversational experience.
None of it is spoken, which means inadequate voice acting is not an
issue. Ambient sound and music suit and enhance the overall mood.
A little pop-up animation will indicate you have learned something of
possible importance, or been given some relevant information. All of
that will be available in your flat when you finish your shift, and can
be examined prior to the night ending. It all finds its way to a large
bulletin board, where it might link to one or more of the five possible
suspects. You can move it around and review where it came from to try
and determine your preferred suspect.
You will ultimately have to give a name to your police “handler”.
That might or might not lead to a successful outcome. Even if you
identify the correct suspect, you won’t necessarily get a good result.
Having played the end of the case a few times to see how it might play
out, I ended up dead in the front seat on one occasion, and sent to
prison for having failed the police on another.
If I had stopped there, I would have had an enjoyable three hours of
storytelling, with some detective work thrown in. But with two more
cases, and the desire to up the resource intensity having got a feel for
the game, I went again. I met some different characters, but also some
of the same ones, and repetitiveness kicked in when that occurred.
However, by refusing some fares if I had met them before, I maximised
the extent to which I met new people, all the while keeping tabs on the
resource requirements. It did indeed feel balanced, particularly with
the benefit of one playthrough. I am yet to try the highest setting, but
still have a case to go.
I am not going to try and describe the look; the pics will do a
better job. Most of the time you will have either a top down map view
while you seek and select a fare, or a front on perspective of you
driving with your passenger in the back seat, with the map in the
background. Little cut scenes punctuate the journeys, and it all comes
together rather well. There is nothing flat or lifeless about the
It is all point and click and you can have the conversations occur in
auto-mode (dialogue will advance by itself, and you can fiddle with how
fast that occurs) or you can click to advance them yourself. The game
autosaves as you go, but there is only ever a single save point. You can
have all three cases on the go at one time if you want, with different
difficulty settings for each. You load whichever one you want to play at
the menu screen. You can also adjust some of the other settings.
While it could be described as limited in scope (you drive around and
have conversations) and can be repetitive when you get the same person
in your cab, there is much to like. The stories were the thing, engaging
in themselves, with the investigative thread offering another reason to
have them. I was enjoyably surprised by Night Call and it hasn’t
finished surprising me yet.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700k 3.7 GHz