A game about being stuck in a small space, repeating the same thing over and over again, observing a world that's close, but feels hopelessly far away, through a pane of glass might seem like a weird thing to want to play during a pandemic. But when I saw Nightline, an experimental sort-of-game by indie dev colorfiction, something compelled me to immediately download it.
The art is a big part of it. This is a beautiful thing, turning a subway car into a dreamy liminal space. You can't do anything except wander around the carriage, look out of the windows, and listen to trippy ambient music. But that was enough to keep me transfixed. There are three environments—a city at night, an industrial district, and a strange futuristic metropolis—and they each have their own distinctive music, atmosphere, and vivid colour palette.
Nightline is weird, and barely a game, but it's absolutely hypnotic. The rumble and rattle of the train car, the abstract, silhouetted landscapes flashing past the windows, and the way the lights from outside fall over the carriage, painting it with vivid streaks of colour. It's a real treat for the senses, especially when you enable real-time reflections in the game's graphics options.
It's also made me realise how much I miss public transport. Taking a late train home, watching the scenery go by, and listening to music is one of the thousand little pre-pandemic things I find myself pining for. This gives Nightline an added tinge of nostalgia; which you can heighten even further by switching VHS mode one, which adds a layer of grain and distortion to the image.
According to colorfiction, the sounds of the trains and the graffiti in the carriages were sourced from real subway trains, and the game was inspired by late night rides on the Tristate area MTA system. You can definitely tell Nightline was created by someone who's spent a lot of time on these trains.
If you want to try Nightline out for yourself, you can grab it here for a few dollars. I played it for about 40 minutes, and I'll likely never play it again. But I won't forget the time I spent on that weird subway train, moving through those surreal landscapes, and that alone is worth the price of a ticket.