Majestic Nights Review – A Disappointing Miami Vice Meets The X-Files Crossover

**Disclaimer** Majestic Nights is an episodic game, with some episodes yet to be released. This review is based on my time playing the first two episodes only.

Episodic games are always a bit of a risky proposition. On one hand, if a developer can deftly craft each episode of a game in a way that leaves you satisfied and wanting more it can be one of the most rewarding experiences in gaming. Think Season 1 of the Walking Dead. Episodic gaming at its finest. On the other hand, poorly done episodic gaming gives the user plenty of stopping points to reflect on whether or not they even want to be playing this game at all. They can be disastrous for pacing, and in general they’re not conducive to the way some people play. Majestic Nights comes in as an episodic 3rd person action adventure game. Does it utilize the episodic method well?

Short answer: no, but that’s not the biggest problem with Majestic Nights. Analyzing or criticizing anything about the way episodic structure is used in Majestic Nights completely side-steps the more important point, which is that this game isn’t fun at all.

Return to the elevator to exit!

I feel like I’m often pretty tough but fair when it comes to my analysis of games. There are many games I’ve given mixed reviews for that I can still say good things about. I didn’t like Styx: Master of Shadows, but I acknowledge some interesting story elements. I’m not a fan of Heavy Bullets, but it’s unique and has pretty solid mechanics. Majestic Nights, however, fails pretty badly in almost every area I can think of. Let’s start with the story.

Set in the 1980’s, Majestic Nights bills itself as an alternate world where all the big 80’s conspiracies came true. Fine, that’s an acceptable premise, but the execution is just lazy and unimaginative. Every single character you’re introduced to seems completely flat and void of any semblance of personality. This goes doubly for the two characters you play as in the first two episodes. After playing through both I couldn’t tell you anything notable about them, or anyone else for that matter. All dialogue in this game is written and not spoken, which is fine. The problem is pacing. The conversations just hum along without any concept of pacing or dramatic timing. It’s like you’re leafing through the draft script for the game.

Return to the elevator to exit!

There are conversation “trees” of sorts where you can choose what your character says, but every time I got the chance to pick what my character says my first thought was “What? I don’t even know what this conversation is about”. You’re given a chance to talk your way out of some hairy situations, but not with logic. It’s just a complete trial-and-error situation where you need to blindly guess what the “correct” dialogue option is or risk everyone in the room suddenly opening fire on you.

Oh and speaking of opening fire, there are combat mechanics in this game …..unfortunately. At first you get the impression there will be a heavy stealth component to the game, and there sort of is, but you’re going to find yourself in open combat often. I was playing with a controller, and after getting shot at for the first time and getting to cover I saw the prompt “RT to fire”. Anyone who has played any video games in the last ten years would take that to mean you press the right trigger to fire your gun. So I hammered away at that right trigger through three separate attempts on that section, dying each time without so much as letting one bullet fly. Whoops, the game failed to mention that while you move around with the left stick, you need to move around the right thumbstick to actually pull out your gun.

Return to the elevator to exit!

Maybe this is something I could have figured out sooner, but at the time the interface looked all buggy and messed up, and it wasn’t the first time. It seemed more likely to me at the time that I was doing it properly and it just wasn’t working. The “RT to Fire” part of the interface kept tripping out, clipping, and showing double. At one point it said “Return to the Elevator to Exit!” on the bottom of the screen for 30 minutes after I’d gone in the elevator and moved on with the rest of the game. Worse, Majestic Nights claims full controller compatibility, but you can’t manage your inventory. In one room I needed to open a safe. I picked up an item “Safe Code” which sounded good, but when I went to the safe I couldn’t find the code in my inventory. There was nothing I could do with the controller. Finally I pulled out my mouse and click-dragged down the menu and there was the safe code, resting at the bottom of my inventory.

Again, no game is perfect, and even middling games often have some redeeming qualities that make them worth a look. Majestic Nights has none of these. Frustrating mechanics, bad interface, and an unbelievably bland, confusing, and uninteresting story make for a bad combination. There’s so much wrong here that I hardly even have time to mention things like the terrible mini-games and wild inconsistency of one-hit stealth killing. The one positive I can think of is the music’s pretty alright. Here’s my suggestion. If you’re interested in anything remotely resembling the aesthetic and gameplay of Majestic Nights, do yourself a favour and play Hotline: Miami instead, which is VASTLY superior in literally every single way. Yes, there are episodes still to come, but I think Wolpaw’s Law applies here: It doesn’t matter how good the end of a game is if the beginning is too terrible to finish.

*** Reviewed on PC via a code provided by the publisher ***


The Good


The Bad