What is it? TV Propaganda sim
Expect to pay: £19.50/$25
Release date: Out now
Reviewed on: Threadripper 2950X, 64GB RAM, RTX 3080 10GB
Link: Official site
Making up your own curse words is flumblethorpingly funny, and the developers of Not for Broadcast seem to agree. Having started off with a few more conventional swears, it’s not long into the game before all sorts of wibbleclip is added to the list naughty words. This matters, because it’s your job as the vision mixer of a nightly TV news show to censor them, so as not to offend the sensitive ears of your audience. Which includes the government.
If they hear something as awful as a 'wumple' or a 'kupt'—let alone the news anchor talking about a rooster he owns that’s more than a foot tall—they’ll switch off in their droves. And that would be bad, because your performance is being measured.
As Alex Winston, non-gender-specific cleaner at a TV studio, you make the mistake of answering a ringing phone. It’s election night, the Advance party has stormed to a landslide victory on a platform slightly to the left of Michael Foot, and for some reason the regular vision mixer has decided to leave the country. That’s him on the phone, talking you through the controls so the nightly news can go out as usual. Given the amount of partying he does, it’s amazing he still has the work ethic to guide you, really.
Somehow you become a regular at the job, put in charge of the four camera feeds from the studio and any outside broadcast, choosing which one is shown to the nation. There are guidelines about not lingering too long on one shot, and keeping the camera on whoever’s talking. Then there's tasks like cueing up adverts, countering interference, and bleeping out swearing. You can do any of these with the mouse, but they have keyboard shortcuts too, so you may be using the mouse to stay ahead of the interference while cutting between different angles on an interview with number keys and hitting space to bleep out bad language from a drunken interviewee. All while chuckling at the script.
Canis Canem Editor
Then it gets complicated. You are the sole person in charge of what the country sees on the news, so when the Advance party starts some dubious behaviour, you can toe the party line or attempt to subvert it. Your choice of adverts or images can improve the fortunes of companies in which you own shares, but get this or your political manipulations wrong, and things can turn sour quickly.
The news programme rapidly becomes government propaganda, forcing you to make decisions about what is broadcast, which can then affect your home life. These segments, which take the form of text-based interludes between the TV chaos, are where the politics tries to make itself felt, as you face decisions about whether to help family members escape the regime, how to stretch the food a little further at Christmas, or to ignore the station manager’s order to work during your booked vacation. The contrast between your home and professional lives is stark.
Take, for example, an early interview with a police chief, who has some strong and offensive views, during which a gimp literally falls out of the cupboard behind him and he stands up to reveal he’s wearing stockings beneath his crisp white shirt. It’s not what you’d call subtle, and may leave some feeling cold rather than warmed by chuckles.
There was the opportunity for some real political satire here, but the blows fail to land, as the humour is just too silly. Parts are genuinely funny, but other times you expect Noel Edmunds or Jeremy Beadle to make an appearance (and if you’re blissfully unaware of '80s British TV, there really is no context that will help with those references beyond Google, where you should beware of Noseybonk). A darker edge might have helped, some sort of commentary on current events in Downing Street and beyond, but instead we get a fictional sport with confusing rules, children’s toys that burst into flames, an appalling piece of youth theatre, and the acronym M.O.O.B.S.
The fact that a group of people got together, decided to release what is essentially an FMV game in 2022 (hey, it worked for Telling Lies) and then filmed some of the silliest, most revolting, slapstick news segments and adverts outside of a Monty Python sketch, is just wonderful. These people are genuinely enjoying themselves, and it’s a joy to see. You can watch the films back on a virtual video player at any time, just to catch the bits you missed.
However, don’t go into it expecting Brass Eye, as any commentary on modern politics, apart maybe from ‘oppressive government bad’ is so slight as to be non-existent. The actual interactivity is also limited, despite attempts to introduce new mechanics like dealing with thunderstorms, though keeping everything running smoothly and audience-pleasing while a naked swearing policeman tugs at your attention from the top left is really enough to put anyone off a career in live TV.