Title: Headliner: NoviNews
Developer: Unbound Creations
Publisher: Unbound Creations
Genre: Adventure, Education, Role-Playing, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 05/09/2019
Price: £11.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
In Headliner: NoviNews, you have one job: You control the news. And with that the people, too. Sounds pretty compelling, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Based on your decisions in the game, you shape the future of fictional city Novistan. You either let it flourish into an open-minded economy or isolate it and let the people go on a riot as soon as they see anything not “Made in Novistan” or a drone crossing their way.
Will the encounters after work with several characters shape your decisions and your work as the headliner of Novinews? Will you crumble under the consequences of your choices? Find out in my review if that game should be approved – or go to the stack of games that should have never made it out to the public.
Public opinion rests in your hands
In Headliner: NoviNews, you learn how powerful the media can be and how it affects the public based on your choices. As I said, you oversee the news and how well Novistan is informed. A merciless plague, drones and more police forces patrolling the streets thanks to a discussion about generic implants firing up or a new synthetic booze on the market… Decisions made are received by the public, and in 14 days, there is a lot what can happen – or go wrong.
Don’t try to cheat while holding back on information, though. It can be tempting, but you will face soon enough the wrath of your readers if they follow a channel that keeps his trap shut.
As you start your playthrough, you can select your character and choose a look out of the suggested ones. I played both with a man or female character, and it does not make any significant difference. So, in my case, Jen Winters (or Jan Winters as the male protagonist) went to work, and after a brief tutorial, you start publishing the news. It’s rather simple: you stamp articles written by your colleagues to approve or disapprove. The consequences are the more difficult object here.
After your work is done, you go home. Always the same route and you often encounter the same people: Evie, your co-worker, your older brother Justin and Rudy, a local shop owner and single-parent to his daughter, Ada. You get to talk to them daily and, after your first playthrough, a fourth character joins the team. Her name is Helene, and she is a cop at the local Novistan police department. You can help her solve a murder case while juggling your daily job as a news approver – if you want to.
All those four characters are somehow representing the different categories you have news to approve on: health, recreation, politics and national security/police. These characters purely exist to make an impact on you and, depending on who you might want to do a favour, change the future for.
I know that being unbiased is basically what you need to be when stamping news articles… But we are also human with feelings to those around us. You can pick to be a jerk, too, but I must warn you: the dialogue depending on that can be very uncomfortable. Also, some events that are happening in the game. Most of them can be tied back to your choices, but some are the act of a higher force and always occur no matter what you do or don’t.
You’re running the show – more than once
Unbound Creations created an imaginative city that can be very bright or very depressing — only based on how you decide to play the game. The graphics are vibrant and underline the atmosphere perfectly – all the time. Playing into this is the perfectly well-made music I wish I had a soundtrack for. It’s outstanding. I am extra harsh on sound and music, but it is well done here on Headliner: NoviNews.
There are endless possibilities and Headliner: NoviNews was designed to be played multiple times. I advise you to do so and juggle around with your character’s choices. A new event can unfold by you just taking one answer into another direction. Every decision makes an impact without you feeling forced to play a long time to reach a point where you can change the direction you’re taking (looking a tad at you, Telltale Games).
You get it by now, I like the game quite a bit, and its objective is simple to understand. But I do have a few issues that I just can’t let go.
Even though 90% of the time the characters were well-written and also interesting, I had hoped some events made a more significant impact on them. Especially on Evie, my co-worker. She is from Learis, the neighbouring country of Novistan and, depending on your path, in the middle of a heated-up situation. Instead of trying to approach you that you’d be her aide and defending her home country for her through the media, she keeps it rather professional. It did not sit right with me at some parts when you try to be nice to her. I don’t want to spoil it, but your relationship can change drastically depending on how nice you are to Evie. Nonetheless, that is just a tiny flaw.
Another flaw I’d like to mention are the few minor typos and weak grammar here and there. It is basically a game about the news and writing – I expect extra careful proofreading here. At an event involving six people, in a conversation with fellow Novistans speaking of that, they get the numbers wrong. They often refer to “five” or “seven” persons. It is being extra picky and does not spoil the game. Nonetheless, I was bothered a bit.
A final statement
Headliner: NoviNews is an impactful and fascinating game, especially if you are fond of writing yourself. It isn’t the longest game and is meant to be played multiple times. While so, experiencing different story arcs were never dull. There is a lot to discover, and games in that genre with so many characters can do a lot worse in that regard. It was always believable and authentic. It even kept me thinking about the news and made me see them in another different highlight.
I will reach for it again after my playthrough and highly suggest you take that job offer as a journalist as well. Only for the reason that your choices matter – not only in the game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Headliner: NoviNews from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Headliner-NoviNews-1622234.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.