The Night Fisherman is a brief visual novel currently available for free on Steam and Itch, and a promising first instalment of a 12-part series.
Usually, when I play through a game and then write a review within 24 hours, it’s highly likely that it’s a turkey, or tested my patience so much that I’ve bailed on it and spat on a stranger.
Not the case with The Night Fisherman.
No. The reason for the swift turnaround was the game length: approximately 10 minutes or so, depending on how fast you can read. It’s not so much a game, more a segment from a larger narrative.
The presentation sets an immediate ambience, but just as you kick off your boots to settle in for a night of drifting in the English Channel drinking Shandy Bass, there’s a fade to black, and it’s all over.
Moonlighting as a smuggler, you play the night fisherman of the title. Almost immediately setting off, you’re ‘greeted’ by a shady type, literally, armed with a shotgun.
Now, we can almost leave it there because as it stands, The Night Fisherman is currently free to play and the time it takes to download and play is about the same time it takes to make a decent coffee. In fact, it’s less than that.
That’s not a slur to say that a ten-minute game is going to be a dull encounter; it just makes sense to try this for yourself and experience the narrative.
It’s based on an already classic scene from a film, and despite being a niche cinema fan, I’m pretty poor at recalling dialogue, and it took me a while to recall the scene. When it occurred to me what film it imitates, it dampened things a little bit for me, as no matter how hard, you end up comparing the two.
But don’t do that.
This isn’t a reboot claiming to be original material, but a homage. It’s just a little more topical in today’s climate. We can go down the academic route and spice up the reading age of this review with some fancy words, but let’s keep it simple: The Night Fisherman is excellent.
Where it lacks in duration and interactivity (despite the dialogue choices, it’s a stern linear narrative), it makes up for it in the mood. The visuals are fantastic, and the sound perfect for creating the tension, without me necking another whisky to calm my nerves.
I played this on my Mac via Itch.io as it was convenient to run it then write about it in the same space. The controls are minimal; the left mouse to select and continue the dialogue, and the left and right arrow keys give an alternative angle.
The Night Fisherman is essentially a visual novel, and while I’m not a fan, forgiving the fish pun, I was hooked.
Perhaps what is testament to the work that Far Few Giants have created is I’m now wishing my life away for the next instalment. You see, this is the first in a series of 12 games that will be released each month.
Whether they are a continuation on one another, occupying the same gaming universe or extracts from classic cinema, I’m on board. Another fish-related pun, but that one wasn’t planned.
We can read into the undertones all we like, but again, it’s up to the individual to interpret it how they see fit. Once art is released into the ether, it’s fair game.
Perhaps what I disliked the most was the representation of the antagonist, named Churchill, he has a couple of archaic lines, and he came across as a caricature in my judgemental eyes. Though, given the current status of society, maybe the character isn’t so far-fetched.
I briefly contemplated the motivations of the developers and their stance. Without going into it, I’m aware of the British/French tensions in certain waters, and I was half-expecting a clinical commentary from that perspective.
I’m too ignorant (thick) to make a profound statement on that, and having seen a few quotes from some of the proper names in gaming journalism; I was expecting The Night Fisherman to be a game layered with brainwashing propaganda and tweet-inducing flame wars.
Not the case.
The Night Fisherman is wonderfully presented, and raises as many questions as you want to explore/insert with the prefix why…?. If you want a free lunch, this one’s on offer over on Steam or Itch, and it’s a pleasant after taste, making this human male want more.
Though this is a standalone game, due to the length, I’m treating it like a demo and avoiding giving it a score, though I’m sure my tone makes it clear where I stand. I like it. I like it a lot.