I’m not going to lie, I’ve put off writing up this review as long as possible and not because the game was bad, in fact it’s really almost too good. Remember the Brexit debate that swept our lovely little island? When the Leave campaign lied and cheated to victory. It took a while for that reality to sink in but the dramatizations and online racists sure helped with that. Then we spent month by month panicked that our elected MPs would chose the worst possible results to get their personal investment corps to profit from our misery. John Bercow became a household name for somehow being a Conservative that wanted everyone’s voice heard. Then came the General Election and for the first moment in ages there was a glimmer of light, a moment of hope to change and all of those hopes were snuffed out entirely by an overwhelming majority of the public that love to hate.
A game about a post-Brexit nightmare scenario sounds like a tough sell these days and given my shift from following politics with a keen eye to no longer caring at all, it has been hard to look at what could possibly become a reality in the bleakest future years. Thankfully Not Tonight isn’t entirely all doom and gloom. The characters stories are uplifting despite the crushing world they live in and the included One Love DLC has a much brighter focus being set in a fantastically cynical life outside of the isolated wasteland. There’s a little amount of character customization and enough back story to get you in the right frame of mind before you jump in but this is no fairy tail.
If you’ve ever played Papers Please you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect going into Not Tonight. Most of your time will be spent checking ID’s, tickets, passwords and banned countries, clothes and whatever your employer wants to survive the dire reality of an extremely xenophobic Britain. Thankfully throughout all of the work you’ll be enjoying a few intertwined stories. The writing in Not Tonight is fantastic and not only is it incredibly dark but there is some really lovely characters, humour and love throughout. Collecting items by being head bouncer for a bar or event, buying improvements to your living space and navigating the decisions of resistance or servitude, all lend themselves to an overarching system that encourages you to endure the hardships of work to see a conclusion to your story.
Not Tonight successfully toes the line between depressing horror and brightly colourful brilliance. It would have been even harder to play if it had been all crushingly sad but the fantastic music and sound work tied in with gorgeous sprites and art style all lend itself to a 2am club that’s a blurred mess of bleak beauty. Moments of musical bliss when you let a patron enter break up the misery of checking for underage clubbers sneaking in or turning away a person because of their nationality. Despite the various comments of disappointment and enduring the abuse of the toffs that spit at Euros throughout everything in Not Tonight is visually amazing to see. You’ll start recognizing people and places and even what to look out for in suspicious items.
The lack of a decent tutorial really lets Not Tonight down. The controls on Switch are a little clunky for a game that feels as though it was designed to use a mouse. There are aspects that are simple to use, simply tapping a button for yes or a button for no works well enough but if you need to switch between queues or talk to a person queuing in the middle with the VIP password it gets fiddly. More than a few times I would find my character not closing the book and moving fast enough. If you’ve got even the slightest amount of joy-con drift you’ll notice it in this game as your character will randomly close the book and stand there. Thankfully the difficulty is fair enough that you’ll still have enough time to compensate and see to even the most impatient clubber. Even if you have a really bad night and fail the game isn’t over, you simply don’t get paid and try again later. Each shift seems to be procedurally generated with events occurring within depending on how far along you are, you’ll find if you load a previous day you might have an easier time of it and still get the great stories.
Not Tonight has no particular difficulty setting but rather different goals to aim for. If you want to earn the most money then you’ll find yourself balancing selling drugs to punters in line and letting in the few that bribe you to do so. All the while trying to balance your social score and not being found out by too many officers. Despite being born in the UK and British in all but paperwork you can easily find yourself deported out to a foreign country. You can always load a previous saved day as the game auto-saves as you progress and creates a timeline to look back along. Although given the setup in One Love (the DLC for Not Tonight included with the game) going to France might not be such a bad thing.
The included DLC for Not Tonight – One Love is set in France where pub owner Dave has left Britain and is conned into signing up to a dating service that forces him to find love or pay a hefty fee. It’s the same gameplay used from Not Tonight, bouncing at various locals and trying not to make too many mistakes. This time instead of selling drugs you’ll be trying to remember drink combinations and selling them to people in line with ticket orders. Once again the controls get very clunky and the interface screen becomes a very messy mash of too many systems overlapping. This won’t stop you enjoying the game but you’ll want to get the hang of the controls as if you’re piloting a plane because if you accidentally press the wrong button you’ll be fiddling to get back to the main screen.
Not Tonight is a rough ride but presented in the best way it could be. If Brexit and the General Election left you more bitter than you expected than you’re probably best off jumping into the cynical and fantastically funny One Love DLC straight away. The story in Not Tonight is dark and devilishly well told. On TV docked and in handheld the game runs fantastically and despite the issues with clunky controls it’s a great port. The main caveat is the subject matter itself. On one save I was deported after days of gameplay and couldn’t bring myself to play it again. Not because it was bad but it told the story too well. My character had been deported from his home because nobody cared and that reality is still occurring now. It’s a great look at what horror could occur letting this country slide anymore than it already has. Not a lot of video games can say that.
7/10 – One love? Not Tonight.
Review code provided by No More Robots check out them out here
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