Night Book Review

As I’ve noted before, FMV games are getting quite the renaissance. From the excellent The Complex, through more recent titles like Five Dates and I Saw Black Clouds, we’ve come a long way from the early 90’s efforts. Wales Interactive are back once more, with Good Gate Media and Alex Lightman, to bring us Night Book. Filmed entirely during Covid, the producers and stars have had to come up with inventive ways of piecing together scenes shot miles – or even continents – apart. The end result is a highly enjoyable, spooky tale that kept me coming back to see more.

We control the narrative of Loralyn as she works a night shift as a real-time interpreter for those wishing to make bi-lingual video calls. Still new to the job – which she has taken on while her husband is away for work – she struggles to get to grips with not translating perfectly, leading to several conversations with her new boss. While this story conceit is clearly a clever way around the whole Covid thing, the tale told is actually very enjoyably done. Of course, there’s more to things than merely being an interpreter; said husband’s work is developing on a sacred island, so supernatural curses are constantly being warned of by Loralyn’s father, as well as several others. A large part of all the conversations are also based around Loralyn’s ability to speak Kannar, the language of the island her husband is developing, and also the cause of some of the supposed curses.

Over the course of an hour or so, we get to decide the fate of Loralyn, her father, husband and more through tried and tested moral and dialogue choices. Presented in pairs, Good Gate have managed to squeeze in plenty of tough and effective options in such a short run time, whether that be to lie to Pierce, lock a door, or even open an email. Scene transitions are handled superbly, and across several playthrough’s there were only one or two moments that broke the immersion thanks to items moving without reason. One midway point diverges the story well, giving even more incentive to replay, though the end result tends to swerve back into familiar scenes later on. With 15 endings to find, and nearly 900 scenes to see, there’s plenty of options for multiple play sessions.

The tale itself is entertaining, with some great performances from the cast and a story that diverges into some great supernatural goings on. Naturally I won’t go deep into specifics today, but I will sing the praises of the crew and actors in how well they pull off each scene. The entire game plays outs in the video call windows on a PC screen that we’ve all become accustomed to, with Loralyn’s desktop visible in the background almost constantly. With her husband away, they have also installed a house wide CCTV system to watch over her and their unborn baby – another great way to have several camera angles. Her dad remains confined to the bedroom, and also uses his mobile phone at points for more intimate video calls. Other characters, such as husband Pierce and clients of the interpreter service are usually side by side in video call windows, with the view zooming in at key points.

The actors also had to stage their own scenes, but looking at the detail and some of the effects it looks like any other professionally shot film. The whole presentation is remarkably well done considering the restrictions, and if anything it only serves to help immerse us in the tale.

The only mild let down here are the end game stats screens. While it shows what ending we found, and the status of the characters, I found the stats themselves to be a little uninformative. I’d have liked to see a little more detail, be that what our relationship was like with each character at the end, or maybe even a rough path idea so we can know what to look out for next time. To be fair though, this is really the only criticism I can think of that sticks out, and it’s a pretty mild one at that. There are in game hints, such as a ‘Butterfly Effect’ notification that pops up at points, so knowing what effects these had a little more clearly would be nice, but I guess I’ll just have play it a few more times to figure it out – I guess I can put up with that…poor me…

Conclusion

Narrative based adventures are always enjoyable, and the FMV variant has really come into its own lately. Night Book is another solid entry from Wales Interactive, with a fun, spooky tale and great acting that really sells the experience. It’s short enough to play through in an evening, and repeat plays are enjoyable thanks to the number of scenes and endings available to find.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Great acting
  • Enjoyably spooky story
  • Fantastic presentation throughout
Bad
  • Clearer end stats might have made repeat plays more informed
8.9
Great
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 9
Audio - 9
Longevity - 9
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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