Victor has been playing video games for a long time, and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences to help other players.
Arriving in Denver, I have two days to earn $300 by working as a bouncer. I need to make sure guests have valid IDs and are over 21, while also balancing an additional requirement of checking land permits on a grid. I’m paid by letting as many valid customers inside as possible.
It’s not the best place to work at, and I know it’s a scam operation. But I need the money to rescue my friend. However, a friend comes along and wants to be invited inside, not knowing it’s a scam.
Do I let him inside to boost my quota, knowing that my friend will suffer? Or do I do the right thing and turn him away, knowing that I will have to work to make up for it?
Not Tonight 2 takes place in an alternate United States that has suffered greatly from the effects of unrestrained capitalism and politics. You play as Kevin, Malik, and Mari as their friend Eduardo is abruptly kidnapped in Seattle and taken to Miami. The trio will take 3 different paths to get the resources necessary to free Eduardo, while also encountering some tough truths about the world they live in.
Not Tonight 2 is a dark comedy role-playing game where you control one of three characters as they make their way across America. Kevin and Malik split up to gather important documents belonging to Eduardo while Mari’s adventure takes place 2 weeks after Eduardo has been kidnapped.
Along the way, you have to work as a bouncer through an app called “BouncR,” which is essentially a gig economy app for bouncer jobs. You need these jobs to fund your trip across the country.
Each character’s adventure is different, introducing a unique cast of characters and situations that, while absurd, perfectly fit the setting and the urgency of your mission.
The Setting & Cast Make the Adventures Unique
Kevin, Malik and Mari all have the same goal, but will meet different characters and obstacles along their journey.
Each character you meet and each location you drive through does a fantastic job of showing the bleak setting of a broken America, while giving each main character more depth and background than just being “Eduardo’s concerned friend”.
Instead of running through 3 different flavors of being an independent bouncer, you are getting invested in Kevin, Malik and Mari as their interactions with others shows the depths of their character.
From Kevin needing to get across Canada to Malik having to investigate a cult, you empathize with the cast. You realize that these characters aren’t just saving Eduardo because “the game said so”, but are saving him because he is a genuine friend.
Outside of the main cast, you get to meet individuals who are trying to keep it together in some dystopian settings. These individuals aren’t just random faces to insert some variety, but help to give you an insight into a broken world that’s a shadow of its former glory.
For example, you meet a man Dave early on and he just looks like a drunkard who just keeps talking about going home to the UK. But as the story progresses, you learn he is genuinely homesick and is a good man deep down, doing his best to help you on your journey.
You also get a good look at America itself, visiting different locations and seeing how the effects of capitalism/politics has affected a city, and the decisions people make to keep themselves afloat.
While there are comedic elements thrown in and some situations are laughably ridiculous, you never stop thinking about the setting and just how bad things have gotten. But you also see people making the best of a bad situation, and you can’t help but feel a small sliver of hope.
Balancing the story is the gameplay, where you are working as a bouncer and earning money for your journey. It isn’t just letting guests in, but a timed challenge where you need to rapidly check information to ensure a guest isn’t lying.
Gameplay Is Varied to Keep You on Your Toes
Being a bouncer in Not Tonight 2 involves checking IDs to ensure someone is over 21 and has a valid ID. It sounds simple, but you have a certain number of guests to approve in order to get your money. You also only have a few in-game hours to do so.
The first few times you play the game are simple to get you warmed up. As you progress, you will have to balance ID checks with mini-games such as playing cards, scanning for diseases and filling oxygen tanks.
The mini-games are not complex, but it can be difficult to balance the games and the ID checks at the same time. This is deliberate of course, as you need to think about how much time you are spending on each activity to maximize the number of guests you can invite.
There are also penalties for letting in someone who shouldn’t be allowed to enter. Every night, you get your evaluation numbers, which tell you how many people you need to let in as well as how many “strikes” you are allowed.
Get too many strikes and you might get a cut to your earnings, or even forfeit them entirely if you do a poor job. This prevents you from letting people in just to fill a quota, and any failures don’t get added to the number of guests that you need.
While it can be a struggle to get the balance of checking IDs and playing mini-games correctly, it feels rewarding to satisfy all the requirements and successfully earn the funds that you need.
If you feel the games are too easy/hard, you can also edit the difficulty to match your preference. While veterans will want to challenge their reflexes and sight on harder difficulties, players who are just playing for the story can still get a bit of challenge while having more room for failure.
Even though the bouncer jobs are largely the same throughout the game, the variety involved will keep you on your toes and give you a sense of satisfaction when you get a spotless record on an evening.
However, the varied gameplay can stand out against the backdrop of the story. Ultimately, you need to rescue your friend and that remains your top priority. You are sometimes forced to make difficult choices in timed responses or let people in against your better judgment.
To the game’s detriment, none of that seems to matter.
The Heavy Stakes of the Setting Feel Meaningless
Not Tonight 2’s gameplay is similar to another game Papers, Please (there is even a secret homage in the game referencing Papers, Please).
Papers, Please involves similar gameplay but also forces you to make tough decisions at the cost of your accuracy, decisions which could greatly impact your ability to progress in the game.
Not Tonight 2 tries to emulate that with the bouncer jobs, but it doesn’t have the same stakes. The game introduces MapO quests, which are optional objectives you can fulfill for more money, health and morale.
You are sometimes asked to make difficult decisions like letting in someone who isn’t allowed, but you are often rewarded for breaking the rules because they are required for the MapO quests. Standing firm, while noble, doesn’t earn you nearly as many rewards.
Rather than trying to find a balance between earning money for a rescue or doing the right thing, Not Tonight 2 gives you the best of both worlds by giving you rewards for doing the right thing that often prove to be better than if you followed your employer’s rules.
You also can’t fail yourself out of a difficult timed decision unless you are trying to complete MapO quests (whose objectives are only told to you by clues). If you don’t care about optional objectives, there are no difficult decisions or reminders that the stakes are high.
This can serve as a disconnect because you now have no incentive to play by the rules. You can freely allow one or two forbidden individuals because the worst you will get is a formal warning while still getting paid.
It can also make the bouncer games feel meaningless if you are particularly good. It is possible to earn enough money and focus on your objectives, but are forced to continue working as a bouncer because the game won’t allow you to pass without working at least 2 days.
Instead of trying to reach your friend ASAP, it sometimes feels as if you aren’t allowed to fail unless you are deliberately aiming for that result, or that the urgency of the situation isn’t present because you’re not able to do anything wrong.
This jars with the story, because the stakes of getting Eduardo back don’t feel high. While it is enjoyable to see characters interact with the world, you don’t feel pressured to work hard or take any risks.
Instead, it can often feel like you’re following 3 teenagers on a crazy journey that you know will end well because failure is incredibly difficult to achieve, rather than an urgent mission as the introduction established.
A Dark Comedy That’s Easy to Enjoy
Not Tonight 2 tells an engaging rescue story of 3 friends trying to rescue one of their own after they are suddenly abducted off the street. Throughout the rescue operation, you really get a sense of the world you are in, as well as seeing characters for who they are, instead of just the pictures that you see.
The gameplay can keep you on your toes, but it does stand out against the established setting. The urgency of the mission can clash with the fact that the game tries to keep you entertained with mini-games as well as the lack of any possibility of failing your overall mission.
If you are looking for a comedy with dark undertones and a bit of challenge, Not Tonight 2 will be a good game to pick up.
© 2022 Victor Tan