Ancient tomes or books that hold secrets to ultimate power or magical spells, which in turn unlock multi-universes, are a great accessory for a writer. These items have fast become the mysterious treasure and focal point for many films, books and games. I can clearly remember the ancient book that puts Indiana Jones on his journey towards the Ark of the Covenant or even the Grail Diary from the third film. Night Book takes us once again into the world of ancient books and strange magical civilisations, all thanks to the very prolific Wales Interactive. Let us settle down and begin at chapter one…
Night Book is an FMV (full motion video) game by Wales Interactive who are easily one of the biggest developers focusing on this genre at the moment. The team behind this game were previously behind Five Dates and The Complex, and interestingly enough it was created during lockdown with the actors filming their sections in Cardiff, Birmingham, Paris, and London separately. It was they who were behind their own lighting, filming using Blackmagic cameras. And it has come together really well, working great and it’s obvious that everyone has done a brilliant job in some seriously trying circumstances. Yet only when you know these facts do you properly realise that no one in Night Book ever appears in a scene together.
The story behind it is one I very much enjoyed. It focuses on Loralyn; a home online interpreter working for a linguist company. She is heavily pregnant and is found looking after her mentally ill father who is having delusions in the bedroom. Her husband is working away on a mysterious island as a developer who is attempting to turn said island into a fantasy resort. When she starts to work online with her clients though, she is tricked into reading from an ancient book. As she translates, a demon from a forgotten race enters her house. It’s up to her to stop it…
The narrative of Night Book is very well-written, with multiple different endings and paths that have been well-crafted. The dialogue feels snappy and realistic even when dealing with the most magical of plots, and the characters themselves are well-developed, nuanced, and entertaining to watch. With the different endings and paths you can take, it does open Night Book up to an array of characters and sub-stories which makes the replay value of the game very worthwhile. I have also very much appreciated the fact that the developers have framed the game so that you’re watching the different rooms through both security footage in Loralyn’s house and her Zoom calls.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as most other FMV games and this means it is limited to the choices you make. You have options whether you wish to “lock a door” or “don’t lock a door”, “read an email” or “don’t read an email” and a time limit to decide on that option. It’s standard stuff in that regards. I think the time and energy here though has gone into creating the different pathways and endings of Night Book, rather than being a bit more inventive with the choice system. In fact, I think Wales Interactive’s early work with The Bunker was more interesting in how they combined puzzles with the FMV. But everything runs smoothly and it feels like a very user-friendly system. However, at the end of any playthrough, you won’t find the stats detailing how many people made the same choices as you, but rather how many endings you have left to discover and how many scenes you haven’t seen yet.
The design of Night Book works brilliantly, especially within the context of seeing it through the main character’s laptop. Here you get to view all the videos, emails, and message chats that you could ever want. It’s very neatly designed and works well throughout. And as mentioned, it seems like every single character has done a superb job with their lighting and locations. In fact, the only one that looks a bit out of place is the husband’s location; a plain room rather than a swanky office.
The soundtrack and effects are good throughout, as are the special effects and some superb editing. There are some lovely performances here as well with a big shout-out to Julie Dray as Loralyn who does a brilliant job of holding it together. Really though, it’s hard to fault too much.
The only issue is, if you’re not a big FMV fan then Night Book is not going to change your mind. If you are a fan of the genre, then you’ll discover a game in which the team behind it have produced a tight, compelling, and professionally produced piece. It comes with a likeable story and the variety of paths and endings should be admired; especially considering Night Book was put together through lockdown. Gameplay-wise it needs more, and a bit of innovation wouldn’t go amiss, but you should be able to get completely invested in the story of the Night Book.
Discover the Night Book for yourself from the Xbox Store