Superhero movies and FMV video games have suffered an almost identical fate. Both had a rough time in the ‘90s, hampered by small budgets, poor casting leading to hammy acting, lacklustre scripts, and limited technology. Sure, there were exceptions – Batman and Spider-Man usually dazzle on the silver screen, and some of the more interactive Mega CD FMV games were okay(ish) – but it wasn’t until the past ten years or so that they truly reached their potential.
It was Wales Interactive that managed to revive the FMV game genre, publishing such well-received titles as Late Shift, The Complex, The Shapeshifting Detective and The Bunker. Dark Nights with Poe and Munro comes from D’Avekki Studios, the minds behind The Shapeshifting Detective – a developer who also had success with The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, a self-published endeavour from 2017. Following suit, this too is a dark and eerie supernatural tale.
The prologue introduces us to Poe and Munro, amateur radio talk show hosts from the fictional town of August. Poe, named after Edgar Alan Poe – which leads to an otherworldly case of mistaken identity – is well-spoken, and often talks in hushed and eerie tones when on air. Redhead Munro mostly follows his lead, even though she doesn’t always agree with his decisions. Her crimson hair matching her choice of ruby red lipstick, she wears thin and revealing outfits for the most part.
Their relationship status comes under scrutiny a few times during this 3-hour adventure. Although officially married, some believe it’s more of a master and mistress-style relationship – one that becomes increasingly unsteady as events unfold.
The story is spread across 6 replayable chapters, each lasting around 30 minutes and featuring a handful of decisions. The way things work, quite simply, is that every few minutes you’re asked to make a choice by flicking the analogue stick. During this time the action doesn’t freeze, as you may expect, but rather Poe and Munro are left hanging in an unintentionally amusing manner, shrugging, scratching their chin or raising their eyebrows while you make a decision.
These decisions, obviously, vary wildly. The story starts with intimidating phone calls being made while live on air, including one instance of a death threat and another of a possible hostage situation from an unknown stalker. In these instances, the choices are to cut the callers off, phone the police, or record what’s being said. Later, the stance changes to siding with either Poe or Munro.
These threatening phone calls lead to a murder within the first chapter, making for a dramatic opening. What then ensues is a spot of supernatural detective work, using mind reading and past life regression. To say any more would spoil the storyline, although it’s fair to say that it does lose its way a little during the halfway mark, and the quality of acting never goes beyond the realm of college theatre production.
There isn’t that much in the way of special effects either – don’t come expecting explosions, car chases, shoot outs and other high-octane pursuits. A smattering of blood and gore is about all there is, while scenes filmed outdoors are infrequent.
I enjoyed Dark Nights with Poe and Munro enough to play through it in one sitting, and the choices are consequential enough to warrant a second playthrough. The two characters are enigmatic, and there is some chemistry despite an awkward bedroom scene. Still, I came to this adventure hoping to forget I was playing a video game, and the handful of dramatic scenes present weren’t enough to make me forget about the controller in my hand. One isolated instance where the camera quickly flicks between the two stars also made me feel nauseous.
Dark Nights with Poe and Munro has enough intrigue to sustain itself for its 3-hour duration. Ultimately, though, some Telltale chapters achieved more within a similar timeframe. It wouldn’t work as a film, but it fits into the typical investigative adventure video game mould reasonably well.
Dark Nights with Poe and Munro is out this week on consoles. It launched on PC in 2020.