Nightlong - Union City Conspiracy

1998 Trecision / Team 17
Designed by Edoardo Gervino, Simone Scelsa
Reviewed 2000 June 6

Rating +1 Linearity straight
Reasonability deductive Connectivity high
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time none

It's 2099. You are a former military special operative, now working as an elite private investigator. Your old commander, now the governor of Union City, asks you for a favour. Some terrorists have been bothering his chief political backers, a big corporation. The previous man he sent in to infiltrate them has disappeared, so you are to follow his trail. You eventual find the terrorists and learn their reasons and plans, and discover an evil conspiracy.

The setting is surprisingly believable. It resembles Blade Runner in some ways, but not quite as radical or dystopic, and with virtual reality instead of hyper-advanced genetic engineering. Technology is advanced, but the old has not been all tossed out, much like current cities still keep old buildings and roads. The characters are all cardboard, just the standards types dropped going through the standard paces. Similarly, the story is a oft-used formula that you've seen before. The charm here is that it is well told. The pacing of revelations and events is pretty good, not coming out all at once nor at predictable intervals. The challenges are almost all very relevant, and there's lots to do, so you have steady progress along the plot with no major mimetic breaks. There's a good noir atmosphere, but not just a collection of noir clichés. Objects are used naturally, and reused, further establishing a strong sense of immersion.

You mostly overcome barriers and break into places, following one lead to the next. The barriers, locks, and guards are varied, and a trip into virtual reality provides even more variety. The challenges are original and creative.

The main problem is that the game is excessively linear, making each challenge the subject of too tight a focus. Too often your only faced with a few viable inventory objects to try on one or two available environmental objects. Several times I had almost completed a devious plan before I realised what that plan was, simply because there was nothing else to do. There are lots of unneeded objects, both inventory and environmental, and they add a lot to the atmosphere, but they are also usually obvious red herrings. If the game were less linear, there would be enough possibilities that you would have to conceive the solutions before actually executing them.

Visually, the game is gorgeous. It presents the world as static, fixed perspective views of high resolution, high colour scenes. Moreover, the artists used the resolution to make a detailed, gritty world. The dialogue was not so great, though, probably due to translation problems -- I think the creators are Italian. The voice acting was stiff, not because of bad voice acting but because of a strange clipping in the spaces between the words. There were often unnatural pauses in dialogues, too.

Nightlong keeps you busy, playing steadily through a competant story in a lavishly constructed world. It's a fast trip because of the simplicity due to linearity, but it's fun while it lasts. It's a good, honest adventure, integrating the plot with challenges, a good introduction to the genre. It's too simple, though, for those looking for a good challenge, and the story alone is unexceptional.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.