App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Of all the FMV games Wales Interactive has brought to iOS, Night Book is among the most successful. It doesn't try to draw things out into movie length, and it doesn't try to operate too much like a traditional video game, either. It spilts the difference just right, using a clever horror premise, tight cast of characters, and some effective acting that ties the whole thing together into a neat, cohesive whole.
Night Book tells the story of Loralyn, a young woman who works night shifts as an online interpreter. Given the screen-based nature of her profession, the game unfolds completely through the lens of the virtual space. You view Loralyn's actions through security camera footage installed on her computer and witness all of her virtual calls as if you are looking at her screen with her.
On the night that Night Book takes place, Loralyn is working a shift in her house while tending to her visiting father who seems to be grappling with some mental health issues. Needless to say it doesn't end up being a quiet night of interpreting for Loralyn, as a creepy mystery unfolds when one of her callers decides to read from an old book written in an arcane language.
As an FMV game, Night Book is essentially a series of video clips that you watch in sequence, much like a movie or TV show. At certain parts of the game, though, you are given the opportunity to make decisions for Loralyn. Some of these choices may seem relatively trivial, like the best approach on how to interpret a line in a marketing video, but others fundamentally change the course of the story, who Loralyn interacts with, and how those folks treat Loralyn in return.
A big part of the fun in Night Book is seeing the results of these decisions, and the game is set up to let you enjoy diving back into the story to explore all the different possibilities. A key factor in making this work is Night Book's overall length. It is manageable (though not trivial) to finish a playthrough of the game in one sitting, and replaying the game lets you skip through interstitial scenes to find branching paths and reach different endings more quickly. After each ending scene, Night Book also keeps stats on your progress toward reaching every ending, the number of scenes you have left to unlock, and more.
I would have been less excited to hop into replays of Night Book had it not been for the game's overall execution. From the performances, to the visual effects, and even the narrative justifications it uses to serve up specfic scenes or camera angles, nearly everything works together in a way that most FMV games usually don't. The game doesn't unravel plot-wise, nor do any of the performances ever come off as too hokey, making it a refreshingly effective horror experience on mobile.
The decision to tell its entire story through screen-based interactions is key to Night Book's success, as it helps with immersion and provides plenty of leeway for you to maintain your suspension of disbelief when a line or two is delivered in a stilted manner. As I also mentioned in my review of their previous release, Five Dates, video calls are kind of inherently awkward. Design descisions like this (and what seems to be some more refined acting/directing), are indications that Wales Interactive have made huge strides in mastering what is notoriously a tricky craft.
The bottom line
Night Book's tight storytelling and convincingly creepy tone held my attention for multiple playthroughs in a single sitting. It's rare for a game to do that, much less an FMV game. If you grab the game for free and like how it starts, I fully recommend you pay to unlock the full game to experience it for yourself.