Headliner: NoviNews is an intriguing Indie story that puts you in the shoes of the leading editor of a country’s media. Originally released at the tail-end of 2018 for PC, we now have a Switch port of this intrepid adventure on our hands. The lightweight graphics and quick, compartmentalised days feel perfect for the Switch’s hardware, so this title feels perfect for the portable platform.
The basic gameplay loop of Headliner: NoviNews consists of two separate entities. Your day will start at the office, where you’ll choose which news articles to rubber stamp for the upcoming day. This section is fairly simple, and can become a little mundane, but you’ll soon come to understand the hidden challenge. If you need to approve two articles but have already rejected all but one, which will you reluctantly release to the public?
Gating how many articles can be approved and rejected is an excellent way of making you empathise with the protagonist’s responsibility, but the game really comes alive at the end of each day. After work, you’ll walk home through the streets of your fictional country, Novistan, and witness the effects of the news that you’ve been approving on the world around you.
Though you’re controlling an editor, they might as well be a monarch. Everything you encourage will soon become reality, whether it’s promoting a totalitarian state or recommending alcoholics turn a blind eye to safety warnings. You’ll quickly come to realise that there are no right answers in Headliner: NoviNews, and every decision has a real impact.
You might think encouraging open ideals is a good, moral thing to do, but it could also push the local grocers out of business. A new wonder-drug might seem too good to be true, but not promoting it could mean curtains for your brother’s budding comedy career. Everything is linked, and whether or not the results of your actions are obvious at first, you’ll soon see the world change around you, according to your behaviour.
It’s equal parts fascinating, horrifying, and captivating; Unbound Creations have done an excellent job of handing you the responsibility, here. Whether you feel the consequences of your actions are believable or not is up to you, but you’re sure to feel the emotional weight of your decisions. This is compounded by Headliner: NoviNews‘ short days, which only last 5-10 minutes, but leave you itching to see how tomorrow will play out.
This means that a single playthrough of Headliner: NoviNews won’t take you particularly long, lasting about two hours, depending on how much attention you pay to the details. Every headline is accompanied by a paragraph of blurb, but why not make snap decisions based on a single sentence? Sure, you could race home every night to get back to work the next day, but so many of Novistan’s intricacies blossom forth when you stop to smell the roses.
By design, however, Headliner: NoviNews is meant to be played multiple times through. Not only are you likely to regret some of your decisions – and trust me, the alternative routes aren’t always preferable – but entire storylines will only be unlocked once you’ve completed certain endings.
Much of the subsequent playthroughs are the same, unfortunately, so you’ll probably find yourself rushing through large sections to get to the newer content once you’ve explored each side of the major plot points. It’s a real shame, as this is the only real hindrance to the replay value of Headliner: NoviNews. You’ll actively want to find out how things would have turned out if you made different decisions – more than many games of a similar ilk – but the repetition does begin to set in after a couple of times through.
Still, this is a minor blemish on an otherwise powerful and thought-provoking title. You may leave Headliner: NoviNews questioning your own political leanings or finding new meaning in everyday media bias. Or you might take everything with aneurysm-inducing levels of salt and enjoy the game purely for its entertainment merits and nothing more.
Regardless, at a reasonable price of just £12 or $14, you’re sure to leave with a warm feeling of appreciation for the experience that Unbound Creations have curated – provided you have the patience and passion required of multiple playthroughs, that is.
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