The best bit of a live news broadcast is when it all goes wrong. Someone swears on TV, a news anchor doesn't realise they're back on air, a rowdy member of the public starts waving like a goon in the background of a shot. Those moments give us a rough idea of how close to disaster live broadcasts are at all times, but Not For Broadcast gives you the whole picture as it puts all the pressure on you to hold a series of live shows together.
You're in charge of the National Nightly News switchboard during a series of live broadcasts. Being faced with a bunch of TV screens, sliders, light-up buttons, and tape decks felt a little overwhelming at first, but I soon got to grips with it. It helps that you don't have you use the mouse for everything as certain actions are tied to the keyboard.
Using the number keys, you cut between cameras to keep the audience entertained. If someone swears you have two seconds before you'll have to censor it by holding down the Space bar. At times you'll also have to dodge incoming interference by moving a slider up and down with the mouse.
At the end of a broadcast, you're graded on your editing, censoring, and ability to avoid interference. Afterwards, you can choose to watch your broadcast back and admire your handiwork. I found doing this provided the break I needed to cool down from the pressure of each broadcast before jumping back into the next one. You can also watch the rushes and adverts which are delightfully goofy.
The 1980s-era satire is strong throughout. The cast of live actors know exactly when to exaggerate their characters' personalities for the sake of comedy. It's well worth watching how their off air personas contrast with how they act when on air, too. A big actor treats everyone around him like crap when first charging into the studio, but when the camera are on, he's as sweet as pie. The one moment that made me belly laugh came when watching a tourism advert for a place called Bumtown—it was then when it was revealed the town is in the county of Taint.
The challenge of managing the switchboard and getting to enjoy the comedy could have been enough, but Not For Broadcast goes further from its second act onwards by getting a little bit Papers, Please. A new political party takes over the country and sends you questionnaires to fill out about your family. It's the start of putting your livelihood on the line which is amplified when you're made aware of the power you have.
During the next broadcast, I had to choose how to depict various people by choosing between two images: one putting them in a positive light, the other a negative one. I also had to choose whether or not to run an advert for a toy that apparently overheated and could put kids in danger. The choices you make end up affecting how much money you make but also sway the nation's opinion of celebrities, the government, and even the news anchor.
Only the first three chapters of Not For Broadcast are available in the Early Access version released on Steam today. Developer NotGames plans on making a total of ten chapters with the help of feedback from players. It's worth checking out already and with the mix of fast challenges, viewing breaks, and decision making, I can see it being able to hold my attention for the duration of those planned chapters.