Not Tonight starts at the end, with the London Eye snapped and bobbing in the Thames, and political party Albion First in control. You are a bouncer taking tickets at the British Museum of History celebration party until - suddenly - it blows up. This is dystopian Britain; this is Brexit.
After the explosive beginning, Not Tonight rewinds. Your story begins in a rubbish-strewn hovel of a flat covered in xenophobic graffiti. You are a European housed and controlled by an oppressive government, and you must work to earn enough money to keep you from being deported.
Everything you do is monitored by the Nazi-like Albion First and embodied by Officer Jupp, your overseer. Your phone is issued by the party and the apps controlled by it, and the one you'll need most is BouncR, which offers you work.
Door work is the nuts and bolts of Not Tonight, the lens through which you'll discover creator Tim Constant's vision of post-Brexit Britain. People queue for establishments and you let them in depending on varying criteria, which scales up to racial profiling and difficult decisions later in the game. It's very Papers, Please, the award-winning game about border control by Lucas Pope, only you're checking clubbers' IDs and tickets rather than passports and visa papers.
When you begin, your tasks are simple. You check dates of birth to make sure people are over 18, then either counter-clicker them in or hand back their ID to turn them away. But the complexity ramps up quickly and soon you will be checking all parts of an ID: age, expiry date, photo likeness, hologram authenticity and nationality.
Then people will start handing you tickets, which must be for the correct day and stamped. Then a second queue will come into play for VIPs who require secret passwords or crossing off guest lists. Leave them waiting at your peril. Too many mistakes and you won't earn your pay for the night, let alone your possible bonuses. You need to be accurate and keep the speed up. It's taxing stuff.
But as you get better the quality of jobs will improve and so will the venues. You'll move from dingy boozers to city clubs and beyond, all apparently modelled on real places Tim Constant once visited. These places and this kind of work give Not Tonight far more variety, colour and humour than the dour Papers, Please. It's pixelly presentation but with lovely detail and charming touches such as music muffling with doors closing behind a punter.
What Not Tonight says politically is harder to get a grasp of so early in the campaign. I felt none of the creeping unease of Papers, Please but rather a kind of playful provocatism, a naughty two fingers up to the whole Brexit mess, swear words included. Whether a darker mood descends and more serious warnings emerge, I don't know. But how poignant can door work be?
Regardless, Not Tonight, 'a post-Brexit thriller' as the slogan goes, will put noses out of joint. It's courting controversy and it will get it. I hope Tim Constant knows what he's doing; I hope his reasons for lampooning Brexit are sound, because if it's merely a political layer tacked on for attention's sake and not anchored in the game's foundations, the resulting huff and puff may blow the whole rather enjoyable thing down.
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