Ministry of Broadcast
Switch version tested
Review code provided
If this is the end of the world, and the only thing shown on TV is going to be Ministry of Broadcast, then things aren’t all that bad. It’s probably one of the better reality shows available: a mixture of The Running Man and a little The Truman Show to some degree. Both compliments in themselves, I only wish that when the characters were running, it didn’t look like they had crapped themselves.
Before going into the story or the fourth wall, the visuals in Ministry of Broadcast are excellent. They’re a pixel art style, but they’re nuanced enough where subtle movement can say so much and the designs themselves are just brilliant. As mentioned, when characters are animated, in particular, walking and running, it looks like they’ve left it too late to head to the throne and it just seems a little comical for the wrong reasons. It doesn’t disturb the sadistic nature of the gameplay, but if I’m picky, I wish there were just a few more frames added to their movement.
You play Orange, a bearded ginger fellow (the best kind and not anything like Chucky) who has just won a place on a reality TV game show where you compete to win the prize of being with your family. There’s a wall that divides the country, and if you wish to cross it, you have to win the game. Unfortunately, it’s not sudoku and Ministry of Broadcast is a pretty brutal platformer with a few puzzles along the way. Throughout your run, you’re being filmed for the pleasure of the audiences at home, and in case you’re doing well, there are a few armed personnel to keep the ratings on point. Speaking of points, there are a lot of ‘classic’ spikes in this game, so expect some impaling on your part. Deaths are pretty gruesome, but that’s the nature of the programme being gratuitous. If it weren’t for the raven that appears out of nowhere to land on your corpse when you’ve fallen to your death after mistiming a jump, I’d probably have been sobbing. Instead, after the initial shock, it brings a smile to my face.
The controls are simple as it’s a mixture of run and jump across various platforms, hitting switches and using your weight to lower platforms. Ministry of Broadcast has elements of the original Prince of Persia, but also the classic Delphine Software title, Flashback or the later The Way Remastered. Though the characters haven’t been digitised, Orange has a similar move set of standing beneath a platform and making a straight-up jump for it. Despite the scenario (influenced by 1984), the wit in the game is often as sharp as the hazards. There’s a self-knowing throughout the game that is refreshing, but not overused so much that it gets irritating. Going back to the visuals yet again, there’s a great use of depth of field in the game; blurring out the non-essential areas – literally, and the overall design of the game means there isn’t any sort of clutter like HUDs etc.
To survive, Orange doesn’t just use his environments to his advantage but also fellow competitors – often sending them to their deaths. It plays out as a somewhat evil dimension version of Oddworld, only it’s pretty satisfying sending these fools to their death if it means you survive until the end (and get yourself a new pair of boots early in the game as you start barefoot). Deaths are relatively frequent as you work out paths to get through each arena. More often than not, you’ll have to backtrack a few times as due to the visual style, not everything that is interactive will stand out. Sometimes you walk off an area to your doom, other times what seems to be a wall is actually the background. The only way you find out is through trial and error. Upon death, you can return to a checkpoint or back to the start of the area, but what was quite interesting is you can jump forward to arenas you haven’t played.
I did give this a try for two honest reasons. One; having a sneak peek at what to expect in the future, and two; to fast track to the end. However, the latter was genuinely short-lived as it defeated the point in playing the end level first – it’s like reading the end chapter of a book and then being an authority on what happened before. Besides that, the more I got to play Ministry of Broadcast, the more I enjoyed it (though some of the jumping sections are tighter than a duck’s arse and you really have to time it right). Then again, that’s exactly what Prince of Persia was like all those years ago on the x486. When it comes to old-school gaming, Ministry of Broadcast captures the mood really well, and the added themes are both amusing and somewhat disturbing along the way. As mentioned, the wit is excellent throughout, but as tends to be the pattern with a lot of indie games these days, there are a lot of typos and grammatical errors, but the intent is there, and it’s not one of those ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ YouTube comment moments. You’ll get over it.
Ministry of Broadcast starts as it means to go on in terms of tone. It’s a cruel, funny and brutally challenging puzzle platformer that is fair when it comes to the actual platforming if you have the patience for it. Though the soiled pants run was a little offputting.
TBG Score: 8/10
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 30/04/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle
Publisher: Ministry of Broadcast
Download link: eShop