Ok. Do not get political, do not get political and above all else. DO NOT GET POLITICAL. Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition is a game that will push some buttons and get politics involved. But that shouldn’t be a bad thing.
Because this could get a bit opinionated further down, I should detail the game first. Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition is known as a Post-Brexit management game. It plays very much like the excellent Paper’s Please in terms of mechanics.
As Person of European Heritage #112 you have to try and earn your right to stay in the UK. Needing to earn enough money by taking on a job as a ‘bouncer’. You will need to check IDs and decide who can gain entry into various establishments.
First thing to point out, that whilst I loved Paper’s Please, I found it to be a little fiddly on the Vita. In Not Tonight however, lessons have been learned. The physical controls on the Switch are super well done and allow you to focus on the job at hand. Rather than spending time fighting against the controls. So huge kudos to the development team here.
I mean, making it so monotony is somewhat enjoyable is no mean feat. Because checking all those IDs is as monotonous as it gets. Yet this is important, as it can drain your focus whilst you look for discrepancies and make mistakes.
Which leads to the one minor niggle I have. This comes from trying to identify fake IDs by spotting if a flag of origin is in colour, or black and white. It feels like the colours need to pop more, especially when playing in handheld on the Switch. I say this is a minor niggle, as it may well just be me and not an issue most will have.
The learning curve for the game is really well done too. As the game eases you into the concepts of checking IDs and then layers on more and more rules as you progress.
The game moves beyond just checking IDs though, as you get ‘better’ jobs and promotions. You are given additional tasks and responsibilities. To help with this you can earn various upgrades for both your work situation and apartment.
In terms of pure mechanics and gameplay Not Tonight is a joy to play and for me surpasses the excellent Paper’s Please in that regard. On console at least.
I would love to say on gameplay alone you should play Not Tonight. However a game such as this is reliant on the story too and the message it is trying to deliver. There need to be a point to having a gameplay loop that is designed to wear you down.
From my own personal point of view, I can whole-heartedly get behind everything Not Tonight is trying to say. Especially at a time where CEOs of gaming corporations are tripping over themselves to distance their games from politics.
I mean when we are hearing that The Division isn’t trying to be political, then we have to question the bullshit that is coming out of the mouthpieces at the top.
Here though there is no question that the team behind Not Tonight have a message and want it to be heard. How you hear it is up to you though. I see it as a big ‘fuck you’ to Brexit. A commentary on the state of the UK over the past few years.
In Not Tonight the country is on the point of collapse. There is a distinct right-wing agenda to the government that is doing what it can to oppress the people.
You feel this plenty thanks to the mundane gameplay loop. Not mundane in a bad design sort of way, but done so make sure you are feeling the full effects of what is happening right now.
Hope is minimal within Not Tonight. Yet the small amount there is, you’ll want grab on to, whilst trying to not be pushed down yet again. Life is bleak within Not Tonight and for me, it echoes real life with accuracy.
As the story progresses it the message becomes clearer and it builds to one hell of pay off. So even if you find yourself struggling with it at times, it is worth persevering with. There is the occasional bit of laughter as some of the satire really hits home.
The writing is fantastic in this regard. Especially for an Indie game. As whilst not up there with the best satire and commentary you’ll seen in film. (Do check out excellent Sorry to Bother You as a recent example). It does a remarkable job of doing so in a more interactive setting. Whilst not insulting our intelligence as an audience.
The team behind Not Tonight could easily have gone the route of being ambiguous. Allowing the audience to see ‘both sides of the argument’. So they should be applauded for standing their ground. Potentially at the risk of sales and bad press to get their message across.
This again comes down to not treating their audience with contempt. They understand that not everyone will agree with the message That isn’t the point.
There is little to no chance of this game changing anyones point of view. Nor do I think it is trying to do that. Nor will it help anyone understand the current political climate any more than they already do.
What Not Tonight does do is take aim at the whole debacle with a razor sharp satirical wit. Brilliantly pointing out how bizarre the whole damned situation is. There is no glossing over things, nor is there any glitz. Not Tonight is dark. Both in tone and the humour it uses to tell a story.
It shines a light on the attitudes of many in this country. Showing how much casual racism has become an every day part of life in the UK and the constant fear that certain people continue to live under.
Not Tonight will not answer many questions. In actual fact it may even cause you to come away with more than you started with. But It will get across the way many feel at the moment. You will come away with some emotion. What that is will entirely depend on your political view point.
Not Tonight is a game that feels draining, regressive and miserable for large chunks. But I think it is one that you very much need to play.