Adventure Corner: Not Tonight 2
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column we take a look at No More Robots and PanicBarn’s document-checking simulation adventure Not Tonight 2, available now on Steam.
Not Tonight 2
Oftentimes, when an indie title sees widespread success, there are dozens of copycats waiting to swoop in to try and establish a genre; and yet, Papers Please, the dark indie adventure title which had players checking identities at a dystopian country’s borders, has not spawned many similar titles. With the 2018 release of Not Tonight, players got a second chance to check documents, swing the fate of both individuals and a nation, and face the consequences of unexpected decisions, but instead of being set in a made-up eastern European country was instead centered in the UK. Now a brand-spanking-new sequel Not Tonight 2 tackles a whole new continent, with an expansive storyline told from three different perspectives. Hang on to your ancestry documents, because things are about to get very strange in a dystopian United States of America.
It’s New Year’s Eve and the USA is now just the SA. Montana has been swallowed up by Canada, the southern states ceded to the Martyr faction, the Midwest has been dubbed the Plague Zone, and everywhere else is Alliance territory…whether they like it or not. It’s all ridiculous and over the top, but has just enough of a seed of truth to make the whole setup feel like a possible, if not plausible, future time. The story is split into multiple distinct arcs, following a group of four friends, as three of them race to set the fourth free from imprisonment and the threat of deportation. The first two story arcs are the experiences of Kevin and Malik as each takes a circuitous route to Miami, fetching documents and working as a doorman in a variety of strange circumstances. The third and final story then has Mari chasing down both one in-game month later and dealing with the consequences of choices the player has made throughout all three acts. To guide players towards the best endings, each location offers up cryptic hints towards the choices that lead to them, even if some of those choices are hard to swallow.
Once players decide on a course of action for each town, they’ll need to make some cash. Taking jobs through the BouncR app is the main way of accruing needed items, relationships, and wealth. Each job has its own perks and quirks, but all follow a basic premise: the player must review IDs to ensure they’re legitimate, then decide if the person should be let in or not. Each establishment has a certain amount of patrons that must be permitted entry for the job to be considered completed and payment forthcoming, as well as a set number of permitted mistakes before the job is failed. During each shift, the trio of bouncers will need to make decisions about whom to let in or keep out, but often the moral choice is not the correct choice, and they may be penalized for making it. Even so, making the right choice is important, as every day of the trip, the bouncers lose health and morale; if any of the three bouncers’ health or morale drops to zero, it’s a game over.
However, this cross-country working journey isn’t without its strange twists; each location will have specific requirements on top of valid identification. Some of these added mini-games are grounded in reality but largely they’re satirical and over-the-top, fitting perfectly into the game’s overall theme. These added tasks can include everything from punching a musical ticket to a beat to ensuring no chickens escape from a factory. While these are small additions, they do a great job of breaking up the monotony. Perhaps the strangest mini-game is bouncing at one of the last remaining gas stations and only filling up tanks within a certain dollar value of their gas tickets. Several of these mini-games, and checking IDs, rely on normal colour vision, but the title helpfully includes a colourblind mode that gives additional cues for the correct action or problematic IDs.
Visually, the simplified pixel art in each stage is great, with more complex pixel art used for the world map and conversations prior to and following each job. Much like the first Not Tonight, the music is perfectly fitting, and while there’s not a ton of variety, all of the tunes are perfect for their stages, making great foils for music-based mini-games and setting the perfect dystopian mood throughout the adventure. Great music transcends the game it originates from, and Not Tonight 2 has a couple songs that could easily make the jump. This is in addition to excellent sound design overall, as losing health or realizing a bad decision has been made comes with sound effects that encapsulate the sinking feeling in the pit of one’s stomach when something feels wrong.
After each of the three main characters’ adventures are completed, a final short piece of gameplay allows players to review everything they’ve done in the ten-to-twelve hours their adventure spans across America; what decisions were made along the way will directly affect whether the gang of four has a happily-ever-after. Players looking for a greater challenge can tackle increasing difficulty levels, which not only raises the number of patrons required to pass a level, but also increases the complexity of the task, adding more twists to the types of incorrect IDs the bouncer will face. Bouncers who want to focus on the story can instead select a casual mode, which removes the health and morale expiration and drastically alters each stage’s pass and fail numbers, allowing players to stroll through their adventure without fear of failure. For those who enjoy adventure games with meaningful choices, sharp writing, and an over-the-top narrative, Not Tonight 2 is a surprisingly complex dystopia to spend a little time in.
Disclosure: This article is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.