Developer: Hitcents.com, Inc.
Size: 988 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
It’s impossible to overstate the influence George Orwell’s 1984 has on late 20th and early 21st century fiction. Literature, cinema, and indeed video games have all drawn heavily from this prescient 1949 novel.
Ministry of Broadcast wears its influences on its sleeve, including that of 1984. It’s right there in the game’s near-future dystopian science fiction setting, in which a hapless everyman protagonist struggles for survival in an authoritarian surveillance state.
Those aren’t the only influences on display either. There’s a strong hint of The Running Man to the central premise of a deadly reality TV show, not to mention the game’s deep black sense of humor.
In gaming terms, the developer explicitly references Prince of Persia and Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus in the app blurb. Just like those classics, Ministry of Broadcast is an atmospheric 2D adventure-platformer, in which slow, weighty movement and precise leaping are the order of the day.
Protagonist ‘Orange’ (so dubbed because of his ginger hair) is no Super Mario. Fall too far and he’ll break his legs, while encountering a patch of ice at speed will send him careening onto his backside.
Indeed, much of what you’ll encounter in each game show ‘arena’ has the potential to kill or maim, including trigger–happy guards, patrolling dogs, falling icicles, and malfunctioning doors.
There isn’t much you can do against these threats but run, hide, and employ some lateral thinking. Ministry of Broadcast is weighted towards puzzle-solving over action, as you push boxes, flip switches, and manipulate situations to your advantage.
This ties in brilliantly with the story, which sees you struggling to win the central game in a bid to be reunited with your family. It’s a journey that will see you becoming complicit in some horrific acts against your fellow contestants/prisoners – though it should be noted that there isn’t much love flowing the other way. Indeed, there’s a guilty twinge of satisfaction to using your ‘friends’ as human platforms and decoys.
While these puzzles are always absorbing, there’s a regrettable amount of trial and error on display. Very often you’ll discover the appropriate solution through several clumsy deaths.
Clumsy is a word that can be associated with the controls, too. We buy the idea that this is an intentional choice on the developer’s part, but that doesn’t stop the feeling of frustration as you plummet through another unseen drop. Using a Bluetooth controller certainly helps take the edge of here.
What pulls Ministry of Broadcast through is its memorably poignant storytelling, sharply humorous writing, and appealing retro art style. It’s some world to spend time in, simultaneously horrifying, funny, and darkly compelling.
- Well realised dystopian world
- Sharp, humorous writing
- Clever box-pushing puzzles
- A little too much trial and error
- Slightly clunky platformer mechanics
- Ideally needs a Bluetooth controller