Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy

nightlong-aptTime for another adventure game! They’re the most numerous thing on the Stack, due to my tendency to put them aside when I get annoyed with them. Today’s selection is Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy, a cyberpunk point-and-click adventure from 1999. The subtitle always makes me think of Union City, New Jersey, but I don’t think that’s what the authors intended; the setting, a future megacity ruled by amoral corporations, could be in New Jersey, but isn’t really that specific. The player takes the role of a private detective assigned to infiltrate a terrorist organization that’s been attacking the Genesis Cryogenetic Enterprise. I fully expect that Genesis will turn out to be the real bad guys, because that’s how these stories go.

I didn’t get very far at all in this game when I last played it years ago, and I haven’t yet spent the time to get much farther. The chief obstacle here is hunting for minuscule hotspots, which in some cases are contained inside other minuscule hotspots. The first puzzle in the game involves an elevator with a panel containing a fuse. The crazy thing is that the game contains close-up graphics of the panel, which would make it easier to interact with its components if it let you, which it doesn’t. The close-up is shown briefly when you examine the panel, then taken away. You can only interact with the fuse in the normal full-room view, in which it’s a few pixels in size (at 640×480). The saving grace of this interface is that the game makes it really clear what the cursor is hovering over at any moment by displaying a name next to the cursor.

The graphics are actually pretty nice. It’s all sprites on a prerendered background, but the backgrounds have a very comfortable level of texture and detail, neither too coarse to be believable nor too fine to be discernable. The downside to this is that every detail is a potential hotspot, so I basically have to roll my mouse over the whole screen lest I miss something important.

When I first tried running the game, it terminated with a dialog box stating that it was installed incorrectly. I had to rerun the installer and tell it to install the bundled version of DirectX, even though it told me that I didn’t need it. While researching the problem, I found various websites reporting problems running this game under Windows XP, that the sound stutters in the cutscenes and suchlike. I haven’t had any stuttering, probably because I have better hardware than the people who were playing it closer to when it came out. The only problem I’ve had with the sound in the cutscenes is that the dialogue is dubbed badly from Italian. Most adventure games released in America in the last ten years or so have been European imports, presumably because most American companies take it for granted that adventures are dead.

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