Wales Interactive have become one of my favourite publishers in recent years with their commitment to FMV adventures. I adore the genre and can find tons of fun in the best and worst of them. Nightbook is an ambitious small scale horror that was filmed during lockdown on laptops and phones. It has some great ideas but is quite lopsided on its execution.
Loralyn is a translator online for various meetings but her nutcase father is having a meltdown in his bedroom. One of the languages she can translate is a forbidden lost language and it seems to be steeped in mystery and occult. The island where it comes from is where Loralyn’s husband is doing some construction work and where her father went a bit mad. Oh and Loralyn’s pregnant too. Under this backdrop, depending on your choices, you’ll end up in two very different conversations that evoke an ancient curse that possesses your father and causes plants to go nuts. Depending on your responses you’ll have a variety of endings, some good, some bad, some more than a little weird! I’ll avoid the rest of the story so you can enjoy it but all I’ll say is water your plants!
Choices can be paused thankfully so you can take your time with them. They come up quite often although not all of them are meaningful. What I was most impressed with was just how different the two customer choices at the beginning are. You essentially never cross paths again fully after you choose which customer call to take early on. Whilst they do funnel to the same selection of endings, sub endings will all be different too. The acting is largely fine although there is definitely a b-movie campness to it but I enjoyed that aspect. As the game was made in lockdown, no one is ever in the same room and that does limit some of the suspense because of how things are shot. Being on mobile phones but in the next room is not quite as tense as having two actors in frame.
My main critique of Night Book comes from its lopsided story exposition. The game piles in the story in waves that make little sense and characters make odd choices that push your story noticeably into railed paths. The exposition is ill timed too and as such half the time your father is possessed he is telling you the backstory in b-movie catch words. That means he feels as much a narrator as he does the antagonist and therefore less powerful or impactful. That issue is enhanced because he isn’t physically there – he’s video calling you. It feels rushed in a way that some pacing would have solved. I wasn’t very attached to anyone except Loralyn because no one gets any development, nor do you really get the plight everyone’s facing. As such, each story feels a bit rushed. Your first two playthroughs will be over in 90 minutes, with others afterwards anywhere from 10-20 minutes as whilst you can skip some scenes on repeated playthroughs, some scenes are not. The CCTV cameras used to break up the laptop footage look creepy to begin with but are made less effective with their digital glitch effects that make the game seem cheaper and less scary than just leaving the CCTV as is would have been.
Night Book is campy fun. It isn’t quite on the same level as Five Dates, Late Shift or Doctor Dekker but it isn’t terrible either. It’s a rare ‘ok’ that I enjoyed at the time of playing but then felt less impressed with as soon as I’d finished it.
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