Being one of a few people in the western world who knows an ancient language can be quite dangerous, it turns out.
Loralyn finds that out the hard way in Night Book, the latest FMV game to come from Wales Interactive and Good Gate Media. This horror/thriller is only around an hour long, but with 15 endings to uncover, it’s one you’ll likely want to jump into multiple times. After all, Loralyn’s life literally depends on it.
The entire game is played from the perspective of Lorayln’s computer screen, though a series of home security cameras gives players a view of different rooms in her house. Loralyn’s currently working a night shift as an online interpreter – she acts as an intermediary between French and English speakers, translating their conversations via webcam. She has a unique selling point as an interpreter though; she knows the ancient and mysterious language of Kannar – which turns out to be quite the sought-after skill.
Two jobs are available to Loralyn on this particular evening; one translating the negotiation of a sale, and one helping someone have a conversation with his estranged mum. Whichever one you choose, you’ll end up in the presence of a mysterious book. Written in Kannar, this book holds a great power, and ultimately a section of it will end up being read out loud, unleashing something rather deadly in Loralyn’s home.
Interestingly, Lorayln already has several ties to the Kannar language and the remote island of Le Pouce, where the language originates. Her partner Pearce is currently on the island, managing the development of a large tourist hotel. And her father, who currently lives with her, has previously been to the island too – and he claims first-hand the power that the Kannar language holds. He’s been unwell, though, so Loralyn puts his ramblings down to his illness. Perhaps she should have paid more attention to him, then the terrifying events of Night Book might not have unfolded.
Exactly what happens is up to you to find out. The story unfolds very quickly, wasting no time in getting straight into the action. You’ll make decisions on Loralyn’s actions at key points – the choices you make will directly influence how the game plays out. With 15 endings, there are multiple branching paths and around 250 scenes in total, although any one playthrough will only reveal around 50 or so of them. The endings range in grimness, with some being particular grizzly – though happier endings are available if you make the right choices.
The production values of Night Book are surprisingly high, considering that this was created entirely during lockdown. Every scene was filmed remotely during lockdown, with each actor responsible for their own environments, lighting, make-up and continuity. That’s a lot of responsibility for an actor, but each of them pulled it off marvellously; every scene comes together and feels like one cohesive project – it never feels obvious that it was made in lockdown conditions. Huge props to the editors in that regard.
It does help, too, that every actor plays their role with gusto. FMV games are often known to have a level of hamminess, but that’s never present here. Julie Dray, who plays Loralyn, especially does a fantastic job. Her role is tense and emotional, and every feeling of fear and dread is portrayed with gusto. Night Book never feels truly scary despite sitting somewhere in the horror genre, but the actors do a great job of building tension and creating an excellent thriller environment.
While a running time of around an hour feels short, it actually works in Night Book‘s favour. To get the most out of the game, you’ll want to play more than once – and it’s short enough that it never feels like a chore to jump back it. It helps, too, that once you’ve played you can skip through scenes you’ve already seen, making it even quicker to get to another possible twist and turn. Perhaps my only complaint is that the short running time doesn’t give much chance for players to care for the characters or fully understand their back story. After a few playthroughs, you’ll likely unlock some additional scenes and documents that provide additional information, but you’re unlikely to truly care for or understand Loralyn or her family the first time around.
If you’ve enjoyed Wales Interactive’s FMVs in the past, then I’m fairly confident in saying you’ll find a lot to like in Night Book. Despite being created in challenging conditions, it comes together with top-notch production values, excellent acting and great storytelling. It may never be truly edge-of-your-seat stuff, but it’s gripping enough that you’ll likely want to hunt down multiple endings.
Night Book Review: GameSpew’s Score