There's always an air of intrigue to the night hours. Those quiet moments when the norms are asleep, leaving the kooks, the party-goers, and night shifters to while the time away doing god knows what. Taxi drivers have a front-row seat to all sorts, particularly once the sun goes down. They've got license to gab freely, roam the streets, and, in the case of Night Call, stumble into a serial killer or two.
Night Call is a noir murder mystery game. You play as Houssine, a taxi cab driver who works the night shift and is an Algerian immigrant living in Paris. His background proves elusive, yet it gradually gets alluded to as the story progresses. Houssine's in a spot of bother, you see. He's been blackmailed into taking part in an investigation about a string of murders, of which you are both victim and the prime suspect.
Houssine has just got his life back together after an assault that saw him hospitalized and his passenger murdered. To top it all off, he's the chief suspect in the very assault of which he was a victim. However, one cop believes Houssine's version of events and offers a deal to ensure he can walk free, help her investigation into the murders, and get back to cruising the Parisian streets.
In Night Call the player must gather clues and try to work out who the murderer is by talking to the people collected in your taxi, nattering away to best try and obtain information related to the true murderer. The cop who's willing to help you provides information about who some of the suspects are. It's then up to the player to pick them up when they appear on your map and gather the information/clues needed to solve the case.
This game takes place at night in "la Ville des Lumières" (the city of lights, Paris!), with the graphics being a mix of hand-drawn 2D artwork and some minor animation. It's an eye-catching style which certainly matches the tone of Night all, and it's certainly not going to cause your PC many problems. For the most part, you play on static screens, flitting between cab rides, investigation boards, and crime scenes.
It's the cab rides which form the bulk of Night Call though. When you pick up a passenger, of which there are 70+, you'll receive fares and, if you please the passenger, tips. You have to use this money wisely as it's used to pay for fuel for your cab, daily car maintenance, and repayments on your cab license, all of which are a drain on your bank account. Let your bank account slide into the red and it's game over.
Houssine's free to chat with the passengers while running these taxis, getting stuck into some complex conversation trees as he tries to dig out more clues. At its core, Night Call is a choice-based game. Players get branching conversations with their passengers; it's also possible to make passengers happy by agreeing with them or just be an ear for them to empty their thoughts into. You can also make them angry by disagreeing with them and interrupting them, attempting to get a rise out of them to squeeze out a clue during a heated moment. However, if you do this they'll tend to leave without a tip.
When not on a shift in the cab, Houssine's at his apartment. This is where you'll find the murder board which sets out all the clues gathered from shifts in the cab. The other ways to look for clues are listening through the radio or reading the newspaper to dissect events. There is no voice narration in this game so you'll be doing a ton of reading throughout, sharing more with visual novels than your typical adventure game.
Still, the end result is a relaxing, intriguing and sleek murder mystery tale that's certainly worth enjoying once. It's not overly long if you play on normal, nor is it particularly replayable, but finding out who the killer is definitely scratches an investigative itch.