I try to keep the Video Game Almanac as politics-free as possible. Nobody really cares about other people’s political opinions, particularly when they’ve come to read about video games. However, that is going to be a bit challenging when I try to review Not Tonight. It’s a game that is basically an extreme view of Britain’s fate, post-Brexit.
Taking Back Control
In Not Tonight, you play as a person who is not quite British enough to satisfy the new laws of who is able to stay in the country. You’re plopped into a Euro-rehoming zone and told that you need to raise money to stay in the country. Your way of getting money? Being a bouncer, and letting people into a club who meet the requirements your boss lays out, or telling them to sod off. Or option three which is selling drugs to everyone that comes your way and make money off of that. Generally, bouncing people will involve looking at their ID card and any supporting evidence they may have, and if it hits the minimum requirements, they’re allowed in. It does get trickier as time goes on, as you’ll need to check whether they’ve got anything concealed, or if they’re wearing inappropriate clothing, but generally it’s a pretty nice curve.
The story in Not Tonight could easily be summed up as “controversial”. It takes a very apocalyptic view and puts Britain in some weird dystopic vision where everyone with any European heritage is demonised and deported. Despite this, it does manage to be quite upbeat and funny a lot of the time, with the stereotypical view of what a Brexiteer would look like. Of course it’s quite offensive, but one would assume that the developers don’t really care all that much about being nice. There are some very fun characters, and some hilarious conversations to be had throughout the course of the game, especially if you choose to irritate certain little oiks.
Once you’ve completed the main game in Not Tonight, you also get the One Love DLC to play as well. It’s probably my favourite mode as well as there is reduced mention of Brexit and it makes the story a lot more interesting. The original story is fine, but it was a lot nicer to get an alternative game, away from the political aspect and back to one of the more fun characters, with cameos from some other weird and wonderful people that you met in the first game too. It adds probably another few hours of gameplay on as well, with difficulty increasing as you progress, similar to the main game. In One Love though, you don’t have to worry about social credits or anything like that, but you are able to make drinks for customers as they arrive, which replaces the drug selling. The only real downside is that you can finish the main task quite early on, so you’re doing jobs but you have no real need to do them by that point, so it can get a bit boring, just blasting through the jobs until the last day.
There’s one thing that I feel lets Not Tonight down, compared to its PC version, and it is the movement. In order to manage two separate lines and a VIP queue, you need to use the left analogue stick to move and also to interact with things. That’s just a poor design choice, but what’s worse is that the player character will move away from the line at even the slightest of touches of the analogue stick. Meaning you may leave your post randomly when you’ve just been given someone’s papers for you to check. It’s made worse if your Switch is afflicted with the “Switch Drift”, where your analogue stick moves as if it has a mind of its own. Again, all of this could have been avoided by using the cancel button to govern when you want to leave the queue or not. It’s not necessarily the worst design decision I’ve ever seen, but it is a particularly annoying one.
The Final Word
Not Tonight is a solid game. I think it leans too heavily into trying to make a political point, but it is a fun game nonetheless. A lot of solid mechanics and enjoyable puzzles, that follows the Papers, Please model. Maybe it doesn’t do quite enough to differentiate mechanically from Papers, Please, but the story does make it worthwhile. You’ll get around fifteen or so hours of gameplay in it as well, and I actually do prefer the Switch version to the PC version, hands down.