FMV games have been making a bit of a comeback recently, and the concept behind this kind of experience is being realised. It’s an interesting mixture of passive and interactive media; the video equivalent of choose your own adventure books. Nightbook is one such FMV game, and thanks to good writing and acting, it’s an entertaining one at that.
However, while Nightbook is supposed to be a horror experience, it’s just not scary. It tries valiantly to create a creepy and mysterious supernatural force to carry the experience and act as the antagonist, but ultimately fails to make it frightening. At times it’s almost comical, which threatens to take you out of the experience, despite otherwise believable and entertaining writing and acting.
A lot rides on the script and characters when the gameplay is so restricted, and indeed the writing and acting are noteworthy. Well-paced and logical writing helps make the characters believable and a strong cast brings them to life. A smart framing device of a home security system and video chat helps sell the idea of camera watching everything, and the protagonist portrays a smart, resourceful, scared but strong character that’s easy to like and root for. Meanwhile, her support play their roles splendidly and keep the story engaging for its 45 minutes to one hour playtime.
Of course, one playthrough isn’t enough to see everything. With 223 distinct scenes to witness and 15 endings, there’s plenty to keep you coming back to see how the story plays out with different decisions. These decisions steer you in one of two ways at certain junctions in the tale and affect the story’s path and the protagonist’s relationship with the other characters. You’ll have to make your decision quickly as well, encouraging a gut response from you. The first time through it’s a compelling combination of excitement and stress making these decisions so quickly and seeing the results.
The aforementioned lack of scares does dampen the experience a bit, especially on subsequent playthroughs, and it’s a weak enough antagonist to reduce your compulsion to see all the endings. Realistically you’re only likely to stomach two or three playthroughs before leaving Nightbook alone, although one particular ending teased by the achievements might encourage an extra attempt or two.
Nightbook is a well-made FMV game that doesn’t overstay its welcome and has high enough quality writing and acting to make the experience entertaining even when there are no decision to be made. It’s greatly let down by the lacklustre horror theme, making it a hard sell to people looking for a frightening of tense experience. For those curious how far FMV games have come, however, Nightbook is a strong example of the concept well-realised.
- Good writing and acting
- Clever framing device
- Poor supernatural antagonist
- Interactivity is limited