The road in front of me receded into an empty void. It felt like I had been driving forever. The radio stuttered and crackled, catchy tunes occasionally popping in as I continuously drove, searching for the answers to our mysteriously disappeared sun.
Thank Christ I bought one of those fancy electric cars, because I haven’t seen a gas station for miles in this damn game. Only weird electrical trees. Welcome to the world of Night Shift, a currently in-development indie title by Brandon Brizzi that attempts to blend puzzle-solving with driving cars in a very 1980s retro-futuristic themed world. There really isn’t a story written up for the game at the moment, beyond the basic idea that “the sun has disappeared, go try to find and save it by solving puzzles. Oh, and there are ghosts for some reason.”
Control over your car is relatively straightforward. You use the WASD keys to move in any direction, and you use the spacebar to flash your high beams at things like an ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. In addition, the E key turns your headlights off entirely if you choose, but there’s no real point to do so from what I can tell. The kicker here for me though is that you have to find all this out simply by finding out for yourself. There’s no list of key bindings in the settings, no tutorial or any kind of information to let you know what you’re able to do or not do, nothing. For a game this simple (and early in development), I can let it slide for now, but not everyone likes the whole “figure it out for yourself” take when it comes to learning how to control what you’re doing in-game.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s just a lot of roaming around and solving several different puzzles. Remember those ghosts I mentioned earlier? Well, currently they come in two flavors: Little specters that sit on the side of the road, and aggressive ghost cars which try to ram into you. Thankfully, both can be killed by flashing them. When it came to the specters though, for the longest time I would keep killing them and think nothing of it. Even though they respawn, what I didn’t realize was some of them (Maybe even all of them) actually give you hints on how to solve the puzzles. I didn’t discover this until the last puzzle, which I was totally stumped on, and I ended up finding this little hint system on pure accident. When you solve a puzzle, a little white flame appears that you collect, and it flies off to a magical glowing rock that sits in the desert. By the way, if you’re like me, you’ll more than likely keep passing that same damn rock while driving around just trying to figure out what to do, or where to go. On a side note, I think this game could use a benefit from having a bit more action-based gameplay, as it would really go well with some of rather more adventurous music the game has. In terms of graphics, having things set in first-person was definitely the best fit since you are driving a car everywhere you go. However, when you do finally choose to go do a little off-roading, you’ll find there is quite literally NOTHING out there but a barren wasteland that is too dark to really see in. And since the map seamlessly loops, you can find sometimes yourself continuously revisiting the same long patch of terrain for eternity. Personally, I think it would be cool if you passed through a deserted city or something occasionally, to give things a change of scenery.
Best ending ever.The soundtrack is great, it really is where this game shines the most I think. All of the music was composed by a band named Dance With The Dead, who make some pretty awesome and catchy electropop, and it really fits well with the artistic themes of the game. Unfortunately, I do have one slight grievance. From what I experienced, the music only plays in-game when you’re in an area that’s attached to one of the puzzles. If you’re out roaming, all you’ll get is the ambience of your car’s engine as you try to find your way back to wherever you’re supposed to be. Other than that, complete silence.
Night Shift is currently on Steam for $5, and while I’m not exactly satisfied with it, I think I can grant it benefit of the doubt for the moment because, as I’ve stated before, it’s still being worked on. I feel like this is a game that does have the potential to be something good if the developer can manage to expand the gameplay beyond just “drive, solve puzzle, drive.”http://wtbfun.com/night-shift-an-early-look/