Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy

Developer:  Trecision
Publisher:  Team17/Microprose
Year Released:  1998

Review by Gordon Aplin (October, 1998)
nightl.jpgI must admit I only became aware of this game a few weeks ago and when I checked around for more information I was my usual, sceptical self. Oh no, I thought, another Cyberpunk thriller laden with juvenile 'tough guy' attitude along with dark, dismal backdrops and mediocre gameplay. I'm pleased to say I couldn't have been more wrong!

A very pleasant surprise
Imagine my surprise and pure delight when I started playing and found myself immersed in a most enjoyable adventure game in the great tradition of inventory-based adventures. Sure, it has a futuristic setting, and it is gritty at times, but it doesn't have that 'mean' adolescent posturing that, in my opinion, has marred many similar scenarios. More importantly, the gameplay never wavers from adventure mode and provides loads of in-context obstacles to progress that can only be overcome through diligent searching, thinking about what you are trying to accomplish and then using the correct item. Just the way I like it.

Nightlong is a third-person perspective adventure and you control the actions of Joshua Reev, a battle-scarred, but not jaded, private investigator who has been asked to infiltrate a subversive organisation by Hugh Martens, Union City's Governor and Joshua's former Commanding Officer. The subversives are targeting Genesis Cryogenetic Enterprise who sponsored Martens at the previous elections. Of course, Joshua is no wimp, but even he thinks twice before tackling spiders and wading through piranha-infested waters. And though he has a selection of weapons at his disposal, he has more inventive ways of solving problems than simply shooting everything in sight. As Joshua you begin the game with the task of investigating the disappearance of Simon Ruby, another of Martens' operatives who was also attempting to infiltrate the subversives.

Point and click interface
The game is mouse controlled using the left and right mouse buttons and items with which you can interact are named on-screen when you move your cursor over them. Use the left mouse button to look at an object and Joshua will give you a description. Right clicking enables Joshua to take or use the item or talk to other characters. There are lots of things to collect and use and your inventory appears beneath the main screen when you move your cursor there. Certain items can be combined in your inventory and it is useful to remember this when you are stuck and don't know what to do next. The interface is easy to use though I would have preferred more control with, perhaps, a choice of actions instead of an all-purpose 'right click'. Still, this is just my preference, and it didn't really impinge on my enjoyment of the game.

Navigating your character around the screen requires only a simple point and click to move to any spot and most locations have clearly marked 'exits'. A useful feature here allows you to right click on an exit enabling Joshua to 'jump' to the next location and thus speed up gameplay. Also, part of the game requires you to investigate a cyberspace 'amusement park' and here you have in your inventory a device which allows you to 'bookmark' locations you have visited so that you can return to them at the touch of a button.

There is some interaction with other characters, but only a few conversation threads are offered. The longest conversations tend to be non-interactive where information is provided to move the plot along. It is generally in these sequences that the game's Italian origin is revealed and the characters' lips continue to move after the dialogue has ended. I must say I didn't find this too distracting and, anyway, I took advantage of the on-screen text option and read the words as they were spoken. For most of the game the action centres on Joshua and the problems he is facing and, fortunately, his thoughts and descriptions don't require his lips to move. However, he does have a favourite, though in my opinion, mild, expletive which is by no means overused or gratuitous.

One of the things I most appreciated about Nightlong is the fact that the designers didn't take their creation too seriously. Whilst it is not an overtly humorous game it does have a sense of playfulness about it. I certainly had fun playing it and even had a chuckle or two at various times. The cut sequence of Joshua drawing his gun in the Zoo is a quite brilliant send up of numerous action movie scenes.

Graphics and atmosphere
The graphics are very well done and quite detailed and, though some of them are dark, reflecting familiar visions of a Cyberpunk future, they are by no means always so. The sound effects and music contribute to the overall atmosphere, and even the voice acting is quite respectable. The game takes up three CDs and disk swapping is kept to a minimum with the most annoying aspect being the need to insert the first CD every time you restart.

Nightlong is an entertaining and well-paced adventure with puzzles ranging from easy to fairly challenging towards the end of the game when the complexity picks up a bit. At one point here I found myself staring for an inordinate amount of time at a couple of my hastily sketched diagrams trying to find an answer to a problem before the 'light' finally dawned. Another puzzle has a maths 'twist' to it, but all it really requires is a process of elimination.

Experienced adventurers might move through this game fairly quickly but, whatever your expertise level, try to avoid reaching for a walkthrough because you will be rewarded for your perseverance. At the end of the game the designers invite our comments so here are mine. Nightlong is lots of fun to the point that I found the lack of speech synchronisation quite forgivable. All I'd ask for is that extra 'action' choice so that I could be the one to decide what I want to do -- and for the next game to be another enjoyable inventory-based adventure.

See the Nightlong walkthrough. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1998. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Pentium 100Mhz or equivalent (133Mhz recommended), 16 MB RAM (32 MB recommended), Win 95 (Win 98 compatible), DirectX 5 compatible sound card, DirectX 5 Compatible graphics card, Quad speed CD-ROM, 2MB Hard Drive space for installation, 30MB Hard Drive space free, Mouse