Night Book is the latest interactive thriller by Wales Interactive. It plays out like a movie in which you make branching choices that affect the outcome of the story and you’ll usually want to play it multiple times to see the different endings.
I’ve got quite a few of these titles under my belt already and I keep coming back to them, there’s just something about the format of interactive books and movies that appeals to me (even as a kid I used to read books where choices you make as a reader would send you to a specific page)
In Night Book, you play as Loralyn, an online interpreter who speaks French, English and Kannar, a rare island language that almost no one speaks, but tonight, it seems to be in high demand. Here is your boss, asking you which job you’d like to take on during this night shift:
The game mostly plays out in your appartment and as a player, you spectate all of it from Loralyn’s computer, showing you chat messages, incoming emails, videocalls and CCTV cameras your fiancé installed for your safety.
You’re pregnant after all and your dad is currently staying at your apartment, but when he last visited the island alongside your soon-to-be-husband, he has seemed to have picked up a curse and now some evil spirits are along for the ride.
Most of the choices you make have some sort of effect on the story, like early on: you’ll decide if you put sedatives in your dad’s food which makes him sleepy and quieter during your calls, but also more susceptible for the spirits to take over. But as if your dad isn’t off his rockers enough, Loralynn falls into a trap of reading some ancient Kannar writing and that REALLY sets things into overdrive.
The way you get tricked into reading this script aloud is very different in two possible scenario’s: One will have you interpret for a french-speaking book-collector who’s trying to purchase an ancient Kannar book from an English dealer and you’ll have to read the pages for him to prove its authenticity.
The other scenario will have you interpret for a London kid, who escaped the island with his father years ago and he’s now reading a book to reconnect with his mother’s heritage. She can only speak French, so you’re called in to interpret, but when the son starts reading the Kannar book and asks for Loralyn to step in she brings the curse upon herself.
That’s when the panic really sets in and you’ll have to think of a way to undo the curse: burn the book or try and get a hold of it so you can see if there is a way to lift it.
The translator set-up is pretty original (and actively made me appreciate the profession more) and there is a lot of story-telling potential here, but sadly it doesn’t take that many risks. Night Book is an occult horror narrative, but it never manages to truly shock or scare. Except for maybe the croaking voices the father makes when he’s entirely possessed. His body language, on the other hand, is what you’d expect a toddler to reenact when you’d ask it to play a demon.
And that’s where a game, that comes terribly close to being a movie, like this can falter: it all rests on the acting talents of the people involved and sadly, outside of maybe her employer or the french book-collector, I had a hard time believing the characters and their actions.
If it weren’t for the cheesy acting, I probably would have rated this game a lot higher, but it actively managed to pull me out of the immersion at times because what they did and said just didn’t come across as genuine more often than not.
It’s important to note that different playthroughs will have different effects though. Some go into more sinister outcomes, like being able to transfer the curse unto your fiancé, while others have a happier ending with the dad surviving and you burning the book to prevent the curse from spreading further.
Luckily they implemented a scene skipping button so you don’t have to sit through scenes you’ve already witnessed multiple times, although it doesn’t seem to be 100% foolproof because I did have a major déjà-vu with a lot of them and had a hard time telling where the difference was.
My first playthrough took around 35-40 minutes, and the next ones were considerably shorter because I could skip some scenes. I played through the game 9 times and was pretty convinced I made different choices than the times before, but sadly I only managed to get 6 of the 15 different endings so far.
On the bright side: there is no achievement for seeing all scenes or endings this time (unlike Late Shift) so if you can play through it with a guide, you should have no effort completing this title.
Night Book is an interactive occult thriller with a very interesting set-up (interpreter gets tricked into reading ancient curse) but the mediocre acting manages to break the immersion too often.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Xbox Series X. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Would you prefer to see the game in action? We’ve got you covered! (but beware of SPOILERS!)
- Very interesting setup
- A lot of different endings
- You can skip scenes you have already seen
- The acting ranges from decent to terrible
- Never really manages to shock or scare