Working the Night/Shift - A New 'CypherPunk' Adventure for AGA Amiga

Boston, 2039.  Amid concerns over personal privacy and economic freedom, a young 'Cyberpunk' finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that will shake the very foundations of global society. 

I've just finished playing through the whole of Night/Shift (not to be confused with Lucasfilm's Night Shift!), a free Hi-Res HAM8 graphic adventure game from Eclectic Imaginations released in June of this year. It's been quite the experience, one that was relatively short (two hours) and ultimately enjoyable, but recommending this game comes with a caveat that I'll discuss shortly.

Firstly, the game itself is a real looker. The HAM8 still images that you'll explore in a Myst-like way by clicking on hotspots to interact or move from one to the other are absolutely gorgeous and rich with detail. And all have some lovely sound effects and snatches of sampled music to add atmosphere. This comes with a price, however; there is no floppy disk version and the LHA file unpacks to 23 MB. However, it will run on the most humble AGA machine (such as an A1200 with 2MB of chipram). 

The game tells its story via text and the occasional headshot. There is a lot of reading involved and minimal amounts of puzzling. There are no dead ends or difficult puzzles; it's clear that the designer wanted to tell a story first and foremost. And this is where the caveat I mentioned comes in. 

Night/Shift is rooted in the 'cypherpunk' philosophy and movement that first surfaced in the '70s but was formalized in 1993 with the publication of a manifesto. The game's plot revolves around some of these principles and contemporary data and identity privacy concerns and advocacy for decentralized blockchain currency. Think Bitcoin and the like. Characters in the game will often deliver long monologues that very much feel like they're the designer's own philosophies and they really want to talk about them to us. Many of the problems that the future society of 2039 struggles with are extrapolations of concerns we have today over privacy, social media and AI. So ultimately, your enjoyment of Night/Shift crucially balances on whether you want to play a game with a narrative deeply rooted in them - and have the patience to wade through sporadic walls of text. 

It's not all doom-and-gloom and waxing philosophical. There are moments of humour and nostalgia for the 1990s computer scene that I won't spoil in detail. These made me smile and were refreshing after all the seriousness. 

I did however occasionally encounter moments of frustration as the load times between some scenes can be lengthy and you will be asked to go back and forth between them in rapid succession ('But I just came from there!'), and it's not always obvious where you need to go - especially at the start of the game where you pretty much need to wander about until a certain event kicks in and you find the right trigger screen. And you have to do a fair amount of screen-sweeping with the mouse in some of the scenes as there are no visible hotspots for things you need to interact with. 

Oh, and there's a single scene of nudity but it can be avoided if so desired.  

All in all, Night/Shift is an enjoyable and intriguing visual novel-style adventure game with great visuals and atmosphere - and plenty of philosophical statements it wants to make. As the game bills itself, Night/Shft is dystopic and nostalgic, but it may be too much of the former for absolutely everyone to enjoy it. 

Download: Night/Shift
YouTube: Sharka's RetroBytes

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