Dark Nights with Poe and Munro Review
I suppose, like fashion, gaming is not exempt from phases. Back in the 1990’s full FMV games like Night Trap, Black Dahlia and The 7th Guest were pretty common and the ill-fated CD-i from Philips often springs to mind when this type of game is mentioned. The genre never really went away but has seen a resurgence of sorts over the last decade or so with releases such as Telling Lies, Her Story and Late Shift. FMV titles were always a bit niche but at least now their visual quality is much better as they’re not hampered by extreme compression so as to fit on Nineties media formats.
D’Avekki Studios have put out several FMV titles including the Guinness world record holding The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker which has a frankly staggering 7 hours, 11 minutes and 58 seconds of full-motion video. To put that into context, that’s roughly the combined run-time of the first two extended versions of The Lord of the Rings movies and puts the Snyder Cut of Justice League to shame. Released last year on PC, Dark Nights with Poe and Munro is D’Avekki’s latest entry into its FMV portfolio.
Following the adventures, of sorts, of two radio hosts in a nondescript town called August, you’re tasked with picking from occasional choices that direct the narrative. Some episodes are more involved than others with some offering very few chances to influence proceedings. The outcome of all them will change, to varying degrees, depending on what you chose but only a few episodes will really hook you in and make you care. Despite the linear progression through each episode, only the thread of Poe and Munro’s relationship and a handful of plot points are carried through. It would have been nice to see some decisions having a greater impact on successive episodes, perhaps influencing the conversation options and thus, the outcome.
Of the six episodes on offer, the fourth instalment “Everybody Changes” stands out for us. Those who have played The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker will recognise the set in use and it’s one of the series’ more script-heavy episodes as well. The focus is mostly on Munro as she volunteers to be the subject of hypnotist Madame Baratsky (Lara Lemon). In an attempt to regress her memories and discover a past life, you find yourself in a one-sided conversation in a therapy session. Depending on how it plays out for you one could come to the conclusion that both games are very much linked.
That being said, even in the more threadbare episodes, the actors do exceptionally well to convey quite a lot with very little. Some may find Klemens Koehring a touch too over the top in his portrayal as John ‘Poe’ Pope but for us, he’s the right mix of Richard O’Brien and Dr. Frank-N-Furter in his line delivery. Leah Cunard provides a perfect foil in the role of Ellis Munro and in the third episode “Green With Envy” they both scream Mulder and Scully. No doubt a lovely homage to the classic spooky episodic TV show X-Files which, as luck would have it, released its own FMV tie-in way back in 1998. They also have decent on-screen chemistry which helps cement your belief that these two characters are actually in love.
What is a bit of a shame is that you don’t really get to see much of August. With such spooky goings on we’d pictured some sort of old English village with lashings of fog in the air. Only “Green With Envy” allows for any sort of travel and whilst we can’t expect any sort of control of the characters, some establishing shots outside of locations or whilst moving to and from points of interest might have added some much needed suspense and trepidation to proceedings. It’s likely that the budget for such a production would come into play here as Dark Nights with Poe and Munro is well shot and, for the most part well edited, though some cuts, depending on choices, do come across as rather jarring.
Strangely, one big issue we had with Dark Nights with Poe and Munro was its controls. Whilst selecting choices is simple enough, move to your choice to select it and hit ‘A’, there was absolutely no mention of quicktime events or any indication that the option you want may need you to tap ‘A’ rapidly. It caught us out a few times to begin with until we figured it out. Not a huge issue given that you can always replay episodes but it would have been useful to know ahead of time as getting it wrong means you miss out on that particular narrative tree. Should you decide to go back through episodes to change your choices – which we highly suggest you do – you can turn on the option to skip through scenes using ‘B’ in the options.
There’s a decent amount of replayability here and whilst some episodes don’t allow you to answer all the questions they pose, some of the different branches range from the amusing to the slightly terrifying. Whilst this genre may not be to everyone’s liking, those of a certain vintage will no doubt enjoy the silliness and outlandish plots with episode five’s Werewolf hunt in “Many Happy Returns” and a soul-eating painting in episode six’s “It Started with a Wish” being good enough to warrant the real Mulder and Scully to intervene. Dark Nights with Poe and Munro may not be perfect but it’s a fun way to pass an evening with its, roughly, thirty minutes an episode being bite-sized enough to either smash straight on through or replay multiple times in one sitting.
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