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(Pocket-lint) - There have been some excellent interactive story games released in recent times, with The Quarry and Life is Strange: True Colors particularly standing out. As Dusk Falls is definitely of the same ilk, but the Xbox exclusive has enough about it to make it stand out a touch.

There's perhaps less interactivity than many in the genre, with the game favouring decisions and branching consequences over any truly controllable sequences, but it has an art style of its own and is more a conventional thriller than many peers.

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However, while this makes it an intriguing experience, there will be many who just don't have the patience of sitting through a six-hour narrative without much to do bar choose the occasional dialogue and/or impactful choice. There are some quick time events that add swipes and taps to the mechanics, but that's effectively it.

So, are you the sort of person who wants to be immersed in a well-told story that's largely played out in front of you, or do you favour a game with more, well, gameplay? The choice is yours.

Our quick take

As Dusk Falls is a strong debut from British indie studio Inner Night but, although it's published by Xbox Game Studios, it doesn't quite have the same polish as many, bigger named equivalents.

The acting and script are both clever and engaging, and the idea that you can play through the entire game multiple times with friends and family (each on a mobile device) is fun, if not entirely original.

However, we think it would have been even more immersive and impressive had the character graphics been fully motion-captured, rather than a sequence of stills that refresh every few seconds. And we can't help but feel that even though there are a hundred or so options to choose from throughout a playthrough, many of which trigger different outcomes, there's not quite enough to encourage further forays.

Still, As Dusk Falls provides an enjoyable first six hours of play and is worth a try - especially if you are an Xbox Game Pass member, as it's part of the library from the off. In that sense, you have nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

As Dusk Falls review: Choose your own misadventure

As Dusk Falls

3.5 stars
For
  • Great cast and voice acting
  • Clever story that feels tangible and real
  • Decisions you make really do have an impact
Against
  • The art style takes some getting used to
  • We're not sure you'll find the urge for a second playthrough

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Decision time

Like many interactive narrative games, As Dusk Falls tells a story while allowing you to choose what comes next many times throughout. That is often in the form of simple dialogue options for the multiple characters. At others, you are given more wide-reaching decisions to make, which will set the plot on one of several paths.

At the end of each chapter, you get to see how many story branches there are for each of your decisions and even a community percentage on how many other players chose the same path as you. There are often many alternatives on offer and even early choices you made can have a major impact much later down the line.

The game also occasionally features quick time events - action moments that require speedy actions, such as swiping up to leap over a log or mashing a button to escape the grip of a police officer. There's not a lot that's unusual or different to many other similar titles, but where this particular outing swerves from most peers is that it tells a normal, human story - a thriller, rather than a supernatural tale or horror.

Thriller killer

There are plenty of characters and twists along the way in As Dusk Falls, with the game starting with one family suffering car failure and another performing a bungled burglary, but things soon spiral out of control and everybody's story intertwines.

You end up taking control of different characters at different times, with the main cast being particularly believable and well-acted. The plot jumps forward and backwards in time, to add flesh to the bones of each of the protagonists and, by a certain point, you really do care what happens to the majority of them.

That's where your choices come into play. Some, it's sad to say, may die based on certain decisions, or live happily ever after. Where As Dusk Falls is clever is those moments are not always flagged. In fact, it's the more minor choices you make that may have the biggest impact, and that makes for a more intriguing adventure.

What's more, thanks to a dedicated application for iOS and Android, you can invite others to play along too, with a majority vote deciding on each outcome. This has been offered in games before, but we found this particular title provoking more discussion amongst family members than most.

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That's likely down to the cast being less 2D than we've found in other interactive games before. This is ironic, really, as that's exactly how they are presented visually.

Flat falls

For everything we like about As Dusk Falls, we do have a couple of bugbears, too. The main one is the graphical presentation, which we found made it much harder to get into the game initially.

That's because Inner Night has adopted an unusual graphical style. Each scene largely has a fully 3D rendered background, including many of the objects scattered around and placed on tables, etc. However, all characters are presented as 2D stills layered on top. These stills refresh every three seconds or so to give you an idea of movement, but it makes it hard to see nuances and emotion.

It's a style we remember from some 1970s cartoons, and it seems at odds with modern gaming. Admittedly, you do get used to it, but we can't help but feel that fully motion-captured animation would have suited the game and its subject matter more.

Our other gripe is that, despite the wealth of plot branches and alternative options you can go back and replay, we can't see many wanting to. The story is roughly six hours long and, even with the multiple options, it still sticks to the same rough plot thread. Yes, some of the characters might experience different fates, but, once you've played it once, it's more than likely you'll be satisfied enough to just put it to one side again. At least for some while.

That being said, As Dusk Falls is available at no extra cost as part of Xbox Game Pass, and is not too pricey even on its own. So you are getting a decent slice of entertainment for your buck anyway, even if you never pick it up a second time.

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To recap

As Dusk Falls offers a fun, interesting story that you will undoubtedly find captivating enough for a full playthrough. It offers plenty of interactivity, an excellent cast and truly impactful decisions that can change the course of the narrative. However, it also has an odd art style that takes some getting used to and we can't see ourselves picking it up for a second outing anytime soon. It's worth a full dabble through, especially if you have Xbox Game Pass.

Writing by Rik Henderson. Editing by Conor Allison.