App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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I can't imagine what someone might think of Dark Nights with Poe and Munro without knowing its lineage. This FMV adventure game centers on radio show hosts Poe and Munro, who originally existed as side-characters in another FMV game, The Shapeshifting Detective. It's in that game where you learn all about the town of August, its supernatural qualities, and the late-night radio show dedicated to exploring these mysteries. If you just fire up Dark Nights with Poe and Munro without this context, you just kind of have to figure things out, though that will probably be the least of your worries while trying to make it through the six ill-conceived adventures contained in this package.
Dark Nights with Poe and Munro is constructed like a conventional "mystery of the week" tv show. This is to say that the game isn't one, continuous narrative like most other FMV games. Instead, each episode has the titular characters getting into some kind of strange predicament, and none of them connect in a way that forms a larger story.
One episode has you pondering over how to deal with a listener who seems maybe a little too attached with the hosts, while others send you out of the studio booth altogether to organize a station fundraiser or try to track down a person reported missing through station call-ins. All of these adventures end up in some kind of supernatural territory in one way or another, and you're there to help steer the actions of the hosts, determining their next steps through occasional prompts that ask you to choose between two or more options via buttons overlaid on the scenes you're otherwise watching.
Although most episodes of Dark Nights with Poe and Munro start with interesting setups, but all of them inevitably unravel into messy narratives full of incoherent quipping and that get wrapped up all too conveniently either by way of simple, unsatisfying exposition or by outright ignoring the plot in favor of focusing on Poe and Munro's relationship.
Speaking of, Dark Nights with Poe and Munro sets up a weird dynamic between its co-hosts that gets increasingly difficult to understand as you make your way through the game. Without spoiling anything, it's clear that the writers for this game want to go out of their way to make it clear that Poe and Munro care about each other, but each episode is filled with exchanges between them that are just mean, or reveal just how little empathy or decency they have for one another. Even when reading some of it charitably as awkward deliveries of playful banter, some of the things Poe and Munro say just don't make sense, even as empty repartees or attempts to reveal hidden depth to the characters.
I don't presume to know very much about how video game development works, particularly for FMV games, but so much of Dark Nights with Poe and Munro feels like it was rushed or just not really considered carefully. This is the most logical explanation for Poe and Munro's strange exchanges considering they also coincide with episodes that ignore the radio show conceit whenever convenient and characters that overexplain their purpose or personality.
The frustrating thing about this is that I can see a coherent and enjoyable experience buried inside of Dark Nights with Poe and Munro. With some more consistent writing, a little more direction, and perhaps even ditching an episode or two to let the others breathe, its X-Files-like stories could go somewhere interesting. Instead, though, each one feels overly rushed while also somehow packed to the gills with lines and beats that feel like gestures at humor or character development that usually just end up being counterproductive and incongruous.
The bottom line
There's a lot of potential at the beginning of every episode in Dark Nights with Poe and Munro, but--without fail--every episode falls apart while also taking away reasons to like its characters or hold out hope that the next episode will be better. It's really a shame, because there's so many good ideas in this game, but they just don't get the attention they deserve.