“Why solve a mystery by stumbling around in the dark with only a torch? We’ll do it in the comfort of a sports car!”
The trope of a silent, dark highway leaves little in the way of originality these days. The hooting of an owl, the whistling of icy winds and the inevitable strike of thunder and lightning.
And what do you usually carry in situations like this? A compass? Maybe a map? The odd weapon meant to fend off denizens of the night?
This time it’s different. You are alone, yet you are perfectly safe within the confines of your car.
Night Shift is a game developed by Brandon Brizzi about driving at night on an open highway in a simple quest to find the sun.
Upon starting the game, there is no clue as to what you’re meant to do next, neither is there any mission log or objective bullet points. You simply set off into the night with the sole objective of searching this seemingly desolate world, a realm void of light and sound (apart from your own car’s engine) for the remains of what used to be the sun. Along the way you’ll encounter ghosts, cars and streetlamps, all elements of larger puzzles that must be solved one at a time to progress.
Playing the game
Your only tools for this mission are your headlights, which come complete with a simple battery gauge for limited amounts of hi-beams. A basic dashboard also conveys straightforward information regarding your lights’ remaining power and the surrounding entities. The environment is yours to explore in whatever direction you choose, off or on the road but you drive alone, with no map or GPS in hand, so it can be easy to lose that point of interest you drove past earlier.
There is no combat or antagonists per se, as you make your own way towards the next encounter in whichever way you desire. There is no blinking arrow, no semi-visible direction indicator either, which could end up being a curse but chances are you’ll find what to do within a short space of time if you keep driving and exploring. The puzzles, save one, are fairly logical and hardly require the use of a guide or an FAQ to solve. Yet, should you need a guide or a hint, you may find a friendly ghost that’ll give you a clue.
The lack of background music (aside from the car’s engine) adds to the ambience of driving at night. It’ll only play when the current objective is almost solved; a trial and error method that does away with typical text overlays. The retro graphics give it a minimalist appearance, plus the basic WASD movement have that “pick up and play” formula.
The urge to immediately explore this unusual world is there so I’d say yes. Yet the entire adventure itself doesn’t last for too long.. The game’s shortness should come as a detriment but there’s plenty to enjoy, without succumbing to repetitiveness. It’s easy to pick up, has minimal controls and does away with cluttered layouts. The latter would certainly mar a slightly spooky, yet relaxing driving/puzzle game.
4 out of 5