Dark Nights With Poe And Munro is an FMV game from D’Avekki Studios, continuing the team’s run of FMV games that include The Shapeshifting Detective and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. From that alone, you should know what you’re getting. The entire game is played out by a live action cast with the player making decisions at key moments in the story, choosing the path the story takes, and occasionally hammering one button very quickly to escape dire circumstances.
Considering that most of what you do is sit and watch the six episodes occasionally press a button. Plenty of games have used the format before, Erica springs to mind, but if your interactions are limited to the odd button press then what is going on screen has to be compelling.
Poe And Munro, our two leads, host a radio show in the town of August and for unknown reasons, someone is trying to kill them in the first episode. The mysterious fiend calls up their radio show and slips notes under the door with subtle messages like “I am going to kill you”. As any completely normal person would do, they decide to solve the mystery themselves and do not call the police at any point. Meanwhile, a sub plot reveals Poe and Munro are boffing and Poe’s wife has found out about his infidelity. Poe decides the best way to convince his wife that he’s not having a fandango with his co-host is to spend the next episode with the pair of them in bed for twenty-four hours and live stream the whole event.
It’s quite clearly meant to be pretty hammy, but by this point my eyebrows were reaching round the back of my head. It takes until Episode 3 before the real investigation begins and our two heroes head to school where an eccentric headteacher exclaims “I am eccentric!” and that’s followed by dialogue that made my testicles retract in to my body including the line “I am very happy to be woman lead.”
While the semblance of a coherent plot does emerge, the first two episodes are just odd. There are no repercussions for events from previous episodes, the next episodes rolls in and everyone has forgotten about death threats, murderers and killer bunnies. Episode four is quite effective, consisting of a series of vignettes with a different actor telling a murder story, but then things turn very odd again with time travelling werewolves, haunted paintings, and our duo go full Once More With Feeling and have a short duet.
It feels that the live action has been produced on low budget, with only a handful of locations used. The lighting is presumably meant to be atmospheric, as no-one seems to have a light bulb in the normal socket in the ceiling and has instead strewn lamps across the floor or off to the side of the camera, leaving everyone’s face half in darkness. I can only assume the head teacher has a pile of red pillows heaped up against a window to block something outside that the production crew didn’t want us to see – normal people do not store pillows on a desk and they would clearly be in the way if the teacher was actually working. Also, why do Poe and Munro have a massive mixing desk in their radio studio when they control everything with an iPad?
There are also some odd musical choices. One scene had a jaunty and very loud orchestral accompaniment that cut across it, while the murder story episode has just a few spooky chords played on synth which are designed to build tension. It’s a simple, effective, and well-worn technique used by many movies and TV shows in the past, but as the scenes can last fifteen minutes the music is incredibly repetitive and annoying.
If this is your first D’Avekki Studios game you are going to be very, very confused. The main characters have more ham than the Waitrose deli counter, it looks like it’s been filmed in the director’s house on a budget of ten quid and the plot takes massive leaps with twists that make no sense whatsoever. Episodes just seem to… end.
But, and this a massive, Kim Kardashian sized but, once you get used to the cheap-as-chips insanity, it does become somewhat enjoyable. As the episodes progressed I found myself laughing at the dialogue rather than cringing and I highly recommend playing with some friends, just so you can all scream “WHAT?!?” at the ridiculous plot twists.