Monday 16 September 2019

Night Call review: Driving into darkness

(PC/Mac) ★★★★ Age: 18+

Night Call
Night Call
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Robert De Niro railed against the venal, filthy streets of New York in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. He'd probably be just as bemused by the cast of several dozen characters who pass through the back of your cab in Night Call, an off-kilter noirish murder-mystery set in Paris.

Like De Niro's Travis Bickle, you're a newcomer with a murky past. When you barely survive an encounter with a serial killer stalking the city, you're implausibly pressganged by the police into helping find the murderer by talking to your passengers.

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Night Call's narrative doesn't always hang together and the crime-solving interludes are sandwiched uncomfortably with your night-time driving gig. But you meet such a rich assortment of oddballs, misfits and unfortunates that you inevitably get drawn into their world.

A doubt-ridden priest, an angry DJ, a lesbian couple arguing about a sperm donor, a lawyer who represents a terrorist - all human life is here. And that's before Night Call drops in a bit of magic realism with a sentient cat and the ghost of a child.

In truth, the detective work here holds just intermittent interest, the game doing most of the piecing together and the outcome somewhat irrelevant. Instead, you live for the interaction with your fares - the punters spilling their guts to you if you prod them gently.

Which is probably exactly what it's like in real life as a cabbie.




(PS4/XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 12+


Live. Die. Repeat. Yes, this roguelike - an RPG with randomly generated levels - involves a lot of your own death. But as befits a release from kooky developer Double Fine, it's wrapped in a candy shell of amusing 1980s gags and day-glo visuals.

As the lone hero exploring the irradiated badlands to save post-apocalypse humanity, the job first feels rather insipid - bashing monsters with a baseball bat, mostly. But then Rad's Big Idea kicks in - collect enough radiation and your body mutates. Maybe you get an extra arm or a flaming head you can repeatedly throw at enemies.

You'll perish often, of course, but on your next run you'll mutate differently: acquiring wings to fly or a boomerang claw, perhaps. It keeps Rad fresh and just about staves off the wearying grind of the typical roguelike.


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