Charm goes a long way in our illustrious hobby. A game with – let's be generous – difficult mechanics can be forgiven quite a lot of sins if it's got plenty of character. Ministry of Broadcast most certainly has difficult mechanics, but it positively oozes charm. Almost every screen is interesting, the characters are well-written, it's frequently darkly funny and it provokes thought along lines of both the cryptic and the existential.
It's important to make it clear that difficult mechanics doesn't mean bad mechanics. Ministry of Broadcast is a cinematic platformer in the mould of the classic Flashback, Blackthorne or Abe's Oddysee, where every move is committed to and each step must be calculated. If anything, it's even more fastidiously demanding than these games – main character Orange feels heavily weighted and extremely stiff. Thankfully, the environments are designed around these limitations, and it's satisfying when you figure out the route forward. Orange's weakness relative to other platform game heroes means that no progress feels meaningless or unearned.
The premise is a downbeat one. A disturbing medley of dystopian game show tropes (think The Running Man), Ministry of Broadcast sees Orange competing in a live broadcast for a chance to be with his family, kept from him by "The Wall" constructed by a fascist regime. The tasks he's forced to complete take the form of arenas, each filled with puzzles, acrobatic obstacle courses over drops to certain death and hungry dogs eager to munch Orange's flesh.
In order to progress, Orange must often take advantage of his fellow competitors – use them as live bait for the aforementioned dogs, or straight-up use their fallen bodies as platforms. At first, these instances are somewhat humorous, if molasses-thick black comedy. As the game goes on and the situation becomes more desperate, your actions will begin to weigh on you. It seems that success is only possible by destroying others. This is no Spec Ops: The Line, but it'd take a hard heart not to feel anything towards the sheer desolation of the scenario.
As the game goes on and the challenges get more demanding, the quality of the puzzles increases and the level of thought required increases exponentially. We've seen some coverage of Ministry of Broadcast lament trial-and-error unfair deaths, but that hasn't been our experience at all. There are deaths, for sure – it's not an easy game and you can go from glorious victory to shattering defeat in a matter of a split second – but we didn't find the game to be cheap or thoughtless in its punishment. You've got to think carefully and pay attention to your surroundings. Often the solution will require outside-the-box ideas and you may well get stuck for some time. It's a game that requires patience, forethought and all of your attention.
The set-pieces are beautifully woven into your progress, so the obstacles you face never feel arbitrary. They could do, easily, and there'd be a narrative excuse for it – these are set challenges for the terrible, horrifying game show you've been cast in; it would be trivial to brush aside any criticism of the level design as being arbitrary with "sure, it's supposed to be contrived". But it isn't. The environments manage to feel creative, carefully composed and – best of all – far from unnatural. Of course, they're not natural, but the design is so thoughtful that the immersion is never broken by a "oh, that's just stupid" moment. The certainty that Orange's abuse of others will result in a positive outcome for him also feeds into his character development – is he really sorry about what he's doing? If so, for how long?
Graphically, Ministry of Broadcast uses a familiar pixel style, but executes it superbly. There are many excellent touches – we're particularly fond of the way Orange skids in the thick snow – that elevate what could have been a pedestrian visual style into something special. The camera zooms in and out to provide a sense of scale for the fantastic heights you clamber as Orange quests for the right to see his family, the art itself is beautifully detailed and the atmosphere is often almost nauseatingly tense. The music, sparing as it is, complements the proceedings beautifully. The aesthetics are completely in keeping with the gameplay, and that's a very good thing indeed.
A relentlessly impressive experience, Ministry of Broadcast is always enjoyable, often excellent and very clearly a labour of love. Some will find the exacting nature of the controls rubs them the wrong way, but if you're looking for an old-school experience that isn't a self-conscious throwback and has a narrative you can get your teeth into, it's an unambiguous recommendation from us. It's not perfect – the in-game dialogue is well-written but rough around the edges, with plentiful typos and grammar confusion – but that's not enough to distract from Ministry of Broadcast's terrific level design and superb visuals. Nothing new here, but what it offers is, quite simply, a very, very, very, very good cinematic platformer.
This Ministry is sound.
This reminds me of The Way... does it play similar?
Ah The Running Man, Classic Arnie one liners’. “Hey Killian, here is Sub Zero, now plain Zero”
Too bad about the messy grammar.
I know plenty of young artists just here in Denmark, who believe they're fluent enough in English not to need proof reading from a native speaker. But... we all do.
Sounds like a great game but precision and patience are not virtues I possess.
I’m still interested in this game.
I do hate not good grammer and spelling isues.
Apparently there was supposed to be a day 1 update but it got held back. I'm guessing the spelling/grammer was part of the fix list.
I've seen this pop up on the Eshop a few times, and been interested, but this review definitely makes me want to take another look.
Huge Running Man fan, and the old-school aesthetic tickles me the right way.
Plus, the review mentioned Spec Ops: The Line, which is one of the greatest games ever made. Even though they said it's nothing like it, I do like the game that starts out cartoony then slowly starts to make the deaths weight upon you.
The complete opposite to Blasphemy, which starts of with a metric arseton of murder then tries to make you feel something through particularly poignant deaths, or those that reveal more of the history and lore of the game world.
Both methods can work well, with a deft touch, but I'm more interested in this game than I was previously.
Looks alright, weird to see grammar issues in a world where you could probably pay five bucks to some English speaker to check for you lol, hope it gets fixed it's not the best look
@DevlinMandrake It's not as on-the-nose as Spec Ops, but it does some similarly interesting narrative stuff.
Hey Killian, I’ll be back.
Only in a rerun.
If it's that moment when it honestly makes you wonder why you keep playing this game (or a toned-down version of it) then I'm sold.
Their dev diary is riddled with the same typos and grammatical errors.
@Pod Hey, we actually did the proof reading but unfortunately there was some hold up with updating the game. Everything will be fixed as soon as the update is up.
@YorkshireNed Actually we have a story mode that gives players some slack to get used to the controls.
Great review, I was going to pass over this one but now I'm really interested.
I'm so confused by the following phrase: "They could do, easily, and there'd be a narrative excuse for it..."
What follows it does not clarify what this section's supposed to be talking about. Like, is it intended to be saying that "they" could do something or that "they" could do with/without an element? I have absolutely no idea.
@Ultimategamer132 The obstacles that you face, as per previous sentence. It's elaborated a little following that. It could be more graceful, sorry.
Where is that quote from in the tag line?
I'll probably check it out when it dropped in price, the grammar issue may bother me so.
Sure, the graphics have plenty of character - the really ugly characters! It's never a good thing when you can make out so many individual pixels on anything more recent than the 8-bit systems.
@flagloverNZ You have to be careful about to whom you pay those $5, though. You'd be surprised how many fan fiction writers even among native English speakers have trouble with grammar and other typological issues, and that's among the segment of the population that actually likes to write.
@Crow_cawscaw Shouldn't you have done the proofreading before you released the game? That seems like something that should be part of alpha testing rather than something to be fixed with a post-game patch.
@brandonbwii it’s from ‘The Running Man’
Oh, cool stuff, sorry to be on your necks about it then! ^^
@BulbasaurusRex You are right and It actually has been done long before the launch. But, unfortunately, the situation with epidemics took over the whole world and all the timelines and deadlines for submissions were pushed left and right. So, we got stuck with early version and while update is still waiting for approval. We are really sorry for the game not being absolutely up to date on launch.
@Pod Well, it's fair criticism and we are doing everything we can to get the lastest update live as soon as possible.
I thought this was in early access for a while, wonder why the translation is still a bit broken? It's a foreign studio so I'd say as long as it doesn't break the game it just makes them look unprofessional, shouldn't really detract from enjoyment too much.
@doctorhino Hey, as mentioned above... due to what's happening with the pandemic timelines and deadlines were moved and the final update with all the fixes hasn't been approved in time for the launch. We are sorry for that inconvenience and embarrassed for our lack of grammar skills. Completely understand how annoying it can be especially for native speakers. Anyway it's no excuse and we are doing everything we can to get the update live asap.
@StuartGipp Thanks for the response.
I don't think the sentence has to be more graceful, as all that really needs to happen, at least in my eyes, is for "do" to become "be." "Do" makes it sound incomplete, whereas "be" immediately refers to the obstacles and permits your promptly put thoughts on them to make sense.
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