Night Book review (PS5)

Not long after releasing Maid of Sker on next gen consoles, Wales Interactive is back with Night Book, a full motion video game that was created during the lockdown period. Out now for all major consoles, PCs and even iOS, we took a look at the game on a PlayStation 5.

After earlier games like Gravity Badgers, an Angry Birds-inspired physics game, Wales Interactive turns towards FMV games as a focus area a few years ago. With impressive titles like Late Shift and The Complex behind their belt, we were looking forward to Night Book, their latest interactive thriller – this one with an occult theme.

Using a mysterious ancient book with immense power is nothing new in horror – Evil Dead fans will be quick to point out. Our protagonist in Night Book is Loralyn, who works from home as an online interpreter. She’s also pregnant, and looks after her dad, who suffers from delusions due to a mental illness. With her husband away on business, her work unknowingly leads her to read from an ancient book that unleashes a demon into her house….

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In a way, Night Book is the Host of FMV games – even though the people behind that movie are also working on a game themselves now. Every actor in the movie had to record their own scenes and set up their own lighting, and were geographically apart from one another – in some cases even in separate countries. The narrative and performances all fit well with the real life background against which this was made, but not to the point where the whole thing gets timestamped – we figure this one will hold up even when we’re finally out of this pandemic.

With a branching storyline that can end up at a number of different endings, there is a range of side characters and side stories to explore as Loralyn tries to get a handle on her predicament. Making use of technology like video calls and security cameras to get everything on screen for the player, it’s visually a lot more immersive than you’d think, based on this being a lockdown production. As with most FMV games your freedom of movement is limited and most of your choices are binary in nature, giving you just a few seconds to select your choice. This opens the door to subsequent playthroughs, but aside from picking everything that’s counterintuitive to you we can’t imagine going through the game more than twice before things start to feel overly familiar.

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Another clever UI choice is that you also use the protagonist’s laptop, giving you access to all the modern communication options we have in real life – and that have been so important in these past 18 months. Despite this, however, the core mechanics still feel awfully similar to those in The Bunker and Late Shift, and the formula hasn’t changed much since 2016/2017. Recent productions like the Isklander Trilogy have shown us that FMV games can also transcend the game world, and we’d love to see some augmented reality bits like that be included in one of Wales Interactive’s games.

Having said that, the story is gripping while it lasts (FMV games are generally much shorter than other games) and the performances convincing, so we were certainly entertained and has a lovely time with Night Book. If you enjoyed the games that are similar in their approach to gameplay, you’ll like this as well.

Score: 7.5/10

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