Night Book Review – If You Didn’t Know How to Read, None of This Would’ve Happened
Developed by Good Gate Media and Wales Interactive
Published by Wales Interactive
Available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
A good haunted house story is hard to find. Ever since “Tobe Hooper’s” Poltergeist back in 1982 – which I watched in 1995 – I’ve craved a good haunted house story. You might be wondering why I put Tobe Hooper’s name in quotation marks above. He’s arguably one of the best horror directors of the last 40 years. Well, let’s all be honest and admit that Steven Spielberg directed Poltergeist and just let Hooper put his name on it. All of that aside, Night Book wants to tell you a haunted house story.
The ongoing pandemic has forced much of the world to hunker down and shelter in place. Humanity is crafty though, and we’re still finding ways to make entertainment in places where going outside is not an option. The advent of video conferencing apps allows filmmakers to work with their actors from anywhere in the world. Movies like Host blew up at the start of the pandemic. Just a couple of months ago I spoke with Host writer Jed Shepherd about his experience making a movie in quarantine.
What about making a game in quarantine? Well, I could explain it, or you can go check out my feature about Wales Interactive, the developers behind Night Book. I’d actually prefer it if you did that. Night Book is as simple as it is expansive. You play as Loralyn, a translator for hire through an online service. She’s not the best at her job, and you’re constantly reminded of that by her work profile showing “3 stars. Average” throughout the game. The entirety of Night Book is told through open windows on a desktop. You’ll be seeing security cameras, phone cameras, and webcams throughout.
Loralyn is, depending on the choices you make, hired on to translate a conversation between mother and son; or to verify an antique book written in a different language before it can be sold. Both options lead to roughly the same outcome: Reading this book in any way, shape, or form is bad news. Some really nasty things are attached and letting them loose causes all sorts of bloody, horrific issues. There is also the small problem of Loralyn’s husband currently planning to build a development in the ancestral home of the people that wrote the book. Oops.
This is compounded by Loralyn’s father, who is staying at her house. From the outset he’s wild. He’s staying in his room, knocking things over, and generally being a pain. He claims that ghosts are bothering him and that he can’t hold them back much longer. You are actually given a choice to lock him in his room or not. You should probably make the right call here. Even if you don’t, the butterfly effect system will kick in and screw you over down the line. It’s pretty impressive that the system keeps track of decisions you make very early in the game, and has them affect you later in the story of Night Book.
Your job as the player is actually fairly minimal. I wrote earlier about movies being made during the pandemic. Night Book isn’t much different from a movie. The only real difference is you’re going to decide how it ends. Have you ever sat in a movie theater and gotten mad because the characters make the worst decisions? Well, Night Book has you covered. You are in charge of the decisions in this horror movie. Do you think the heroine should ignore her father’s pleas? Do it then. Leave him there. Are you mad because no one ever locks doors or calls cops when things get dangerous? Make the calls.
Night Book is easy to play through. You can sit down and knock it out in about an hour and a half. That’s the length of a horror movie. If you think that’s all it has, you’d be wrong. There are 15 whole endings for the game and over 200 scenes throughout. For reference, the game keeps track of these numbers across playthroughs. In my first playthrough, I saw only 40 scenes and one ending. I’m going to have to put serious time in to see all the game has to offer, and that’s awesome. I don’t really need to talk about graphics, do I? The game is completely live-action. Filmed during the pandemic in separate actor’s homes. It’s a technological triumph over that bastard virus.
If you’re looking for a choose-your-own-adventure-style game/movie, you could do worse than Night Book. Also, I’ve been singing ‘Night Moves’ but replacing “moves” with “book.” Just in case you need that stuck in your head.