Hopefully representing the start of a shift in popularity for the FMV
The Switch is so great for accessibility for so many genres of games, and Wales Interactive are doing a great job of making the FMV one of those successful genres. The Bunker, released on the Switch eShop in April, was a solid start, and now Late Shift follows quick on its heels.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, FMV games are pretty much the video game equivalent of decide your destiny books, where you’d read to the end of the page before turning to one of a choice of pages to control the destination the story takes. In live-action video form, this gives you the feeling of being the director, and in Late Shift your decisions can influence our protagonist’s personality, making him a shy and untoward wuss, or a blood-thirsty uber-criminal who gets right into the thick of the action.
As the plot is the main course of what’s offered here, I can describe it in very limited detail, but the titular ‘late shift’ is the protagonist working overnight in a car park, but his lack of responsibility for the cars that he takes charge of end up landing him in the middle of a robbery of a high-value item, with a romantic interest, police interrogation and scenes of gun violence and torture all on the cards depending on the decisions that you make.
The overall production value is somewhere between a TV movie and a B movie, though there’s a decent car crash/explosion budget on offer. It’s by no means an all-star cast – Joe Sowerbutts, who plays lead character Matt, is perhaps best-known for voicing Harry Potter in the Philosopher’s Stone video game, while leading lady Haruka Abe was in the video for Clean Bandit song Rather Be – but the acting is slick, and does well to aid the escapism. In some cases, you get two options to choose between, in others three, but they all seem to seamlessly add together to form a complete and satisfying narrative each time, with the scenes chopped and changed on each playthrough.
At a total runtime of around an hour, Late Shift isn’t a mammoth task from start to finish, but the beauty in its length it to encourage replayability. There are over ten different endings, some good and some bad, to the game which can only be revealed if you make the right decisions throughout the game. Trying to piece together and remember the decisions you made on the last playthrough can be a challenge, of course, but the game does keep a record of the decisions you make, as well as the number of game endings which you’ve seen, in order to present it back to you at the end and inspire the completionist within you to start the story once again.
Respect must be paid to Wales Interactive for identifying FMV as a game genre which works on Switch – taking a movie like this on the go is impressive, though I’d hope to see the floodgates of the genre opened now to see all kinds of short films make an appearance in this form. Night Trap is already on the way, thanks to Limited Run Games, of course – but props to The Bunker and Late Shift for leading the way.
You can’t fault Late Shift too much for what it is. I’d have liked to see a few more decisions on the table for a more hands-on role as the director, but given all the scenes that were filmed, it’s impressive seeing all this bundled on a small screen you can take on the go.