Monday, 11 May 2020

Asylum Reviews: Ministry of Broadcast [Switch].

Inspired by Orwell’s 1984, Ministry of Broadcast (from the aptly named Ministry of Broadcast Studio) is an intriguing little platformer recently released on the Switch. The country is divided by The Wall, and you, as a character named Orange, a rare type of human known as a ginger (haha - so relatable!), who must take part in a brutal reality TV show known as “The Wall Show” in order to win the right to see your family again.

You must travel through arenas as Big Brother watches over your every move. A variety of different traps and hazards will be flung your way, and it is up to you to navigate the insanity laid out before you. For all that the core concept of the watchful eye of the regime is a treacherous and very serious thing to deal with, the dark humour spread throughout the story and NPC dialogue helps to keep things lighter and makes the game actually very funny. Between the humour, heavy themes and the cinematic platforming style it gives off a very Oddworld vibe, so that’s a win with us!

Art style is interesting; with a fairly common pixel-art look utilising a lot less colour than we’re normally used to for the style. Lots of muted greys and metallic blue-tones, and an overall tense dystopian feel works really well here. And with your HUD integrated into the environment instead of taking over a large portion of your screen, you feel very drawn in to what is going on. Hints and tips are subtly shown, so when times are tough in the arenas it helps to pay close attention to your surroundings. Sound design is also done perfectly, with music that changes very well alongside the story.

What starts as fairly normal platforming becomes much more difficult later on, and the specificity of your movements become all the more important. The controls of MoB are very precise, and often a poorly timed jump will spell disaster for you. I found that if I struggled too much at one particular area, I would be best to just sit the Switch down for a bit and come back to it later. It gives you enough time to calm down from the adrenaline rush and rage, and lets the information sink into your brain so it’s much easier to deal with later once you’re clear-minded. Muscle memory, ftw.

The morality of Ministry of Broadcast is something that is done fantastically well. Earlier in the game, Orange’s fellow competitors are simply a stepping stone to success (sometimes literally!), but as the game progresses and things get more challenging, with the outlook becoming more dire with every passing moment, desperation kicks in and these choices – that are often the difference between life or death – feel that much heavier. Luckily, if you pay attention in the sleeping areas between arenas you will find characters you previously sacrificed, with some stating that the thick padding they are wearing kept them safe from the spike pits.

Puzzles are something I really enjoy in games, whereas Allan sometimes finds them a bit too frustrating and leads to the fun being sucked right out for him. But here, we both really enjoyed them, even when some of them required some serious out-of-the-box thinking to get to the bottom of. Some of the puzzles involve you having to figure out how to cross spikes by causing competitors to fall on them and create a path, other times you may have to sacrifice someone to a dog in order to pass. Trying to think a few steps ahead at all times is difficult, but will ultimately help you when it comes to timing some of the more difficult challenges.

At present, the game is really well done and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with it. A patch was scheduled to drop recently, however due to the current pandemic (still can’t believe I am writing those words) the patch has been delayed. This will add an option of “Normal” or “Easy” modes within the Story Mode, enabling people to experience the game without as much stress if they select the easier option. There will also be some bug fixes and additional language support added in with the patch (which I presume may help with the spelling/grammatical errors, of which there are quite a few), as well as some new animations and chapter screens included, so I’m excited to give it another go once the patch is live to see the changes.

As it stands, we have decided to give Ministry of Broadcast the Collecting Asylum rating of 8/10.

Have you played Ministry of Broadcast yet? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

Thank you to HitCents for the Ministry of Broadcast Switch review code!

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