The press has always been a source for news and goings-on. With that comes the power to manipulate a populace in ways that are hidden deep below the surface; even something as simple as a positive article towards a beverage can have an influence over a population’s line of thinking.
In Headliner: NoviNews, you wield this power as you take control of a news station, deciding the fate of your nation and the people around you. Healthcare, immigration, and corporate interests are the topics most applicable to the people of Novistan, and it’s your job as “Headliner” to decide how they feel about them.
As Headliner, you’re given a stack of possible articles to publish or reject. Think Papers, Please — but with much more at stake than the singular decision of who to let enter the country. Here is where you will sort through possible articles and decide what the station’s stance is on said topics.
The system for deciding which article to publish is simple to understand, but the button inputs can be confusing. As you know, the B button is located diagonally down, and to the left, of the A button. However, you use the B button to select articles on the right, while using the A button for articles on the left. A minor qualm, but it had me entering incorrect prompts a couple of times.
From there, you exit the station and make your way down a street to your apartment. This is where you will meet the main characters of this story and start to see how these decisions are affecting them. Evie, Justin, and Rudy all have issues with health, racism, and money, and you will see first-hand how these choices affect them, while also noticing the changes happening around you on the streets.
Riots, homelessness, or increased police presence can all be seen on your short walk. This makes the choices you make especially hard, as at times, you have to make decisions that do not benefit your friends and family, or you might choose to let your personal feelings get in the way and allow injustices for the sake of those you love. This gives your character some skin in the game, and adds the depth necessary for the story you create to hit home a little harder.
You will be contacted by corporate interests, shady conspiracy theorists, and the government themselves as you continue in your work, attempting to influence you from all angles. At the end of the day, though, it is your choice as to what news you publish – regardless of the outcome. This means that multiple play-throughs are necessary to really get the full effect of the story, all of which offer alternate endings and character paths depending on the choices you make. Luckily, the repeated sessions don’t feel forced or overly cumbersome, and diving back in for every conclusion is a tolerable experience.
Headliner: NoviNews is a well-written story that has many parallels to issues we are seeing in today’s world. As the master of the press you can see the real ramifications of your decisions, and I couldn’t get enough of it. A little bit of wonkiness in controls and the length of the game don’t take away from the really solid experience this game offers.
Headliner: NoviNews £11.99
Headliner: NoviNews is a hard-hitting news cycle simulator that takes the choose-your-own adventure model through dark themes and into the political cycle of a country in turmoil. Issues with controls and short, repeated play-throughs are a bummer, but tolerable.