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Review

Review: Not Tonight

Switch to: deDeutsch

Bre­x­it is a pret­ty big deal, not just in the UK but the world as a who­le, so it’s no real sur­pri­se that some bra­ve deve­lo­pers would try and turn such a con­tro­ver­si­al event into a video­ga­me. Rea­ding through the sum­ma­ry for Not Ton­ight made us a litt­le wary of how the crea­tors would hand­le the rather series sub­ject mat­ter, but we were still intrigued by the game’s set­ting. It’s a shame that the final pro­duct mis­sed the mark in so many ways.

Not Ton­ight is set in a post-Bre­x­it Bri­tain whe­re ever­ything fell apart. A far-right group came into power, the coun­try was clo­sed off and anyo­ne deemed for­eign is exi­led. Howe­ver, ins­tead of a serious take on the effec­ts of Bre­x­it, this is a more sati­ri­cal game that reli­es more on come­dy to attempt to get its mes­sa­ge across. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, said mes­sa­ge is incredi­b­ly hea­vy han­ded and beco­mes gra­ting less than an hour in. Every cha­rac­ter you meet is one dimen­sio­nal, and it’s hard to sym­pa­thise with anyo­ne when they rare­ly act like actu­al human beings.

The ent­i­re set­ting is real­ly this game’s big­gest pro­blem, sin­ce it not only affec­ts the sto­ry but game­play as well. Your cha­rac­ter works as a boun­cer to pay off his debts to this anti-European Bri­tain, and each shift plays out in the same way: Mana­ge at least one queue of peop­le, che­cking their IDs and any other requi­red infor­ma­ti­on for dis­crepan­ci­es and then deci­de if they’re allo­wed to pass. The easiest com­pa­ri­son to make would be to 2003’s Papers Plea­se, a game which Not Ton­ight take more than a litt­le inspi­ra­ti­on from. Though here, ins­tead of deci­ding whe­ther peop­le can enter the coun­try – or even whe­ther they live or die – you’re most­ly just mana­ging a small group of peop­le out­si­de of din­gy night­clubs.

For a game that the­mes its­elf around such a hea­vy poli­ti­cal event, not­hing in the game requi­res the play­er to think about their actions and how they’ll effect the world. The sto­ry is pret­ty much set in stone, whe­re you side with the resis­tan­ce group that is attemp­t­ing to over­throw the government regard­less of how you inter­act with cer­tain cha­rac­ters. By the end of Not Ton­ight, it didn’t feel like our cha­rac­ter had and real impact and the game sort of ends abrupt­ly making ever­ything feel even more mea­ningless.

It doesn’t help that many of the game’s mecha­nics fall foul of the goofy set­ting as well. Things start off OK, when you must check IDs to see if a per­son is over 18, if their ID has expi­red and that it has the cor­rect mar­kings. But later addi­ti­ons like ban­ned clot­hing and weird­ly short guests lists don’t real­ly make much sen­se. Hun­ger and health meters are also intro­du­ced late in the game, and even though they try to make up a rea­son why they weren’t the­re from the start it just comes across as stu­pid.

The over-the-top set­ting and gene­ral mun­da­neness of your job as a boun­cer come tog­e­ther to make for an incredi­b­ly repe­ti­ti­ve game. Sure the basic con­cept may be simi­lar to the afo­re­men­tio­ned Papers Plea­se, but unli­ke that game there’s not­hing par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ting to break up the day to day work shifts. By the end of the first in-game month we were alrea­dy incredi­b­ly bored, and the later mon­ths only made it wor­se.

At least Not Ton­ight deli­vers when it comes to fan­tastic visu­als. The back­drops to each work­place are vibrant, fea­tures some of the best spri­tes we’ve seen this year. It’s one area whe­re the goofy set­ting actual­ly works in the game’s favour, allo­wing the artists to crea­te some inven­ti­ve are­as that make the boring game­play slight­ly more mana­ge­ab­le. It’s just a shame that most of your time will be spent loo­king at your workspace on the bot­tom half of the screen ins­tead.

Conclusion

This was always going to be a pola­ri­sing game thanks to its sub­ject mat­ter but, even if you can igno­re the hea­vy han­ded approach it takes to sto­ry­tel­ling, Not Ton­ight is just not a fun game. Bland game­play and ques­tion­ab­le design and balan­ce decisi­ons make for a boring over­all expe­ri­ence that doesn’t come clo­se to the game it takes inspi­ra­ti­on from. There’s defi­ni­te­ly room for more games like Papers Plea­se, but Not Ton­ight is litt­le more than an examp­le of what not to do in near­ly every way.

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