26 Reviews liked by annabelle

Fuck being sad that Mario RPGs don't have "deep" stories anymore, I'm sad that Mario RPGs won't be this completely unhinged anymore. Between Mario almost punching a child, the late-game boss that ends with what is effectively a suicide joke, and like half the shit that Ted Woolsey added, I never knew how much I wanted a Mario game with this much unhinged energy.

Not Tonight imagines a dystopic future for post-Brexit England in which citizens of the European Union are treated in the same way as non-European migrants are presently. At best, the narrative or thematic function of this bizarre premise is unclear and distracting. At worst, it seems to betray an active refusal to depict reality, completely defanging the game's politics and inadvertently whitewashing the targets of its critique.
But maybe none of this should be all that surprising, considering just how much of the game is informed by–or even directly lifted from–the already-weak Papers, Please. While Not Tonight is bold enough to set itself in the real world–a level of grounding which Papers cowardly shied away from (an implicit admission of its ahistoricity)–the game manages to be just as detached from the reality on which it is meant to reflect. Part of the effectiveness of Papers’ historical revisionism lies in that it is naturally read as specific and historical without being beholden to rigorous review as a work of history. A player understands through aesthetic signifiers (art, language, fashion, technology) that the fictional setting of Arstotzka is the USSR. Consequently, Arstotzka’s qualities are understood to be transitive, presumed also to be true of that which it “represents.” But, of course, Arstotzka is not the USSR in the game’s text, and as a result is (perceivedly) shielded from strict critical examination along lines of accuracy. Not Tonight’s near-future Britain, however, is afforded none of the benefits of pseudo-fictional obscurity. This doesn’t mean that the game is more “accurate” than Papers, only that its half-truths are far more distracting.
Far and away the most striking of these “half-truths” is the game’s central premise itself, that the objectives of an immediately post-brexit fascist regime (emphasis on immediately; the game is set in 2018, the same year as its release) would be focused exclusively on oppression of European Citizens–”Euros”, as they're derogatorily referred to in-game. Even a cursory understanding of British far-right rhetoric would betray the absurdity of such a notion. But not only is there no mention of the position of non-Europeans in the new regime’s policy, such demographics are completely invisible within its text and gameplay. As the player spends the majority of their time examining NPCs’ ID cards, it’s difficult not to notice that the only flags represented are those of European states. As is explained in-game, the “country” listed on these cards isn’t even indicative of citizenship, but rather heritage, making the absence of any non-European individuals all the more glaring. When travel restrictions start to be implemented (both into the gameplay and within the narrative) the affected demographics are also–naturally–all European.
It’s difficult to find words strong enough to describe the madness of creating a game ostensibly about “what would happen if fascists came to power in Britain”, but then having that scenario play out in a world where–evidently–there are no people not of European origin either attempting to immigrate into the country or already residing within it. The resulting narrative is, for lack of a better term, unsettling; a marginalized group has been thoroughly erased, and in their place, the oppressors, the beneficiaries of isolationism and fascism recast as its victims. The thought process behind creating a game like this is genuinely unfathomable to me, and fundamentally undermines anything even potentially worthwhile about the experience. The idea that the player should be developing sympathy for the “Euro” victims of the post-Brexit regime is a difficult sell when the game itself demonstrates such little sympathy (or thought at all, for that matter) for the real-world victims of the movements and ideologies it depicts.
There’s much more that could be said about Not Tonight’s shortcomings, particularly its gameplay. But I find it difficult to even justify saying anything else. The basic premise of the game’s narrative and the world it plays out in are so fundamentally, inexcusably broken that nothing else feels relevant. Even if Not Tonight was an enjoyable experience (it is not), even if it was a reasonable length (it is not), even if it had anything of value to say whatsoever (it does not), I would not recommend this game. Whether through inconceivable carelessness, artistic cowardice, or some combination of the two, Not Tonight refuses to engage with the questions raised by its narrative–so I see no reason why anyone should engage with it.

This review was written before the game released




The "My name is Ozymandius, king of kings" poem except replace being king of kings with being one of the biggest poster children of the then booming indie game market and replace the kingdom being reduced to just two pillars with the game's legacy being reduced to Soulja Boy jokes and Jonathan Blow constantly coming up with new ways to be a reactionary shithead

Played the first world and thought it's not that bad but then 2-2 hit me with the most weirdly precise series of jumps in any game I've played

this is one of the coolest games in the world, and if you're able to tolerate its dogshit gameplay you are probably hot

Everything wrong with modern gaming was a direct result of this game

This game has no content and no Battle Royale mode out of the box, I hate when you have to wait for game features to be added.

Really loved this game but it's such a shame because I don't think there's any games out there inspired by it

I fucking hate U.S. imperialism

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