I originally saw Not Tonight as part of the Humble Choice in January 2021 and gave it a pretty positive review, even calling it the best game of the month. Now two years later, I finally gave the full game a shot and while I still enjoy the game in concept, I haven’t finished the experience.
Not Tonight is like Papers, Please. It’s not even trying to hide the fact and as a concept, that’s smart because a lot of people enjoyed Papers Please. It’s a well-written and interesting story with solid gameplay. If Not Tonight was similarly delivered, this would be an instant hit.
The gameplay here is the same, players will be a bouncer outside of bars and festivals and admit people based on some set of rules that the owner of the establishment has made up. The game gets more complicated with different rule sets on different days, focusing on overloading the player with tasks, but it’s never so completed that players struggle, it’s more about how fast players can check the id and clothes of their patrons, and juggle competing queues of people.
The story is also well-written and quite interesting. Players are left in post-Brexit Britain trying to survive even though technically they live 100 miles away from their current location. It’s unclear why they don’t just get “deported” and return home, but that’s how the game’s stakes are set up. There are barely any management features and even when the game finally adds them, there’s a minimal challenge to maximizing your choices to do well. To fail at the game, players would actively have to try to lose, and even then it would take multiple days.
The issue I struggle with Not Tonight is that it’s just too long. Where Paper’s please probably took most players three to four hours to play through the entire game over 20 or so days, Not Tonight requires almost 90 days, and after 40 days of playing, I just wasn’t having enough fun. Over four hours were spent and I felt no real compelling reason to continue. While the story and gameplay were acceptable, not enough happens over the period. This reminds me of This Is The Police with a weak gameplay loop that goes forever.
Ultimately Not Tonight has good gameplay, it is just a cautionary tale in being careful what you wish for. Many people wished Papers please was longer, and I was certainly one of them, but Not Tonight shows that quantity is nothing if the quality stays the same. Eating a good burger is enjoyable but only eating that same burger for weeks will eventually become dull. Not Tonight is an enjoyable burger at first, but now after I spent so much time with it, I’m done, mostly because I don’t want to waste my time chasing this story, nor do I think it will be worth the 6 or so more hours I’ll have to play through it.
One thought on “Not Tonight Review – Probably not any night”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Not Tonight. It’s interesting to hear that you enjoyed the game in concept, but didn’t finish the full experience. I can definitely see how the gameplay mechanics of being a bouncer and admitting people based on a set of rules could be engaging, especially with the added complexity of different rule sets on different days.
The post-Brexit setting also sounds intriguing and adds a layer of tension to the game. It’s a shame to hear that the management features aren’t challenging enough and that players have to actively try to lose in order to fail. It would have been great to see more depth and nuance in the gameplay to make it more engaging and challenging.
Overall, it seems like Not Tonight has its strengths and weaknesses, but is worth checking out for those who enjoy the Papers, Please style of gameplay and are interested in the post-Brexit setting. Thanks for the review!