A snowy scene showing our protaganist at the foot of a tower with a guard standing to the right, at a gate.

Ministry of Broadcast

Big Brother meets … Big Brother. In this pixellated tale of dystopian reality game show, you’re tasked with completing a series of platforming puzzles — by fair means or foul.

An NPC named Bobby is told to 'Hush' whilst the player looks on from afar.
It might seem nepotistic, but any game with a character named ‘Bobby’ is already off to a good start in my book.

Mining the Orwell playbook is hardly an original concept, but it feels churlish to complain about that when the details are handled as well as they are in Ministry of Broadcast. Many individual touches combine to create a chilling atmosphere — literally, with the constant snowfall and icy sections present — and the foreboding music backs this up to create a genuinely unsettling game.

The overall task is to reunite with your family by competing in a challenge-based TV show. In practice, this involves walking around — there’s quite a lot of walking, but thankfully, a run command makes it much less onerous — exploring warehouses, sewers, and various industrial buildings. Your path is frequently blocked by puzzles which require rearranging objects, turning valves on, and completing timed jumps or opening doors in the right order.

Our main character is in a tunnel, examining a broken vending machine which they hope will be fixed 'in the next game'.
Constant wall-breaking (the third wall, not the actual one) and self-aware references are par for the course

The core action is often quite laboured, but it’s interspersed with some magnificent set-pieces. They’re not only drawn beautifully, they’re also scripted to near-perfection with humour that repeatedly hits the mark, and individual moments of poignancy and hubris that will have you questioning your own outlook time and again. There’s a depth here that I really wasn’t expecting, and I was very pleasantly surprised that the game delivered so strongly on its message.

Each time I encounter a new pixel-based game, it seems that ‘this one’ is the best, but Ministry of Broadcast’s graphics are highly impressive. A significant part of that is the animation — so many individual quirky character movements combining to create believable motion — but the backgrounds and even the text dialogs all work together to form a very nice looking whole. It put me in mind of classic pixel art adventure game *The Secret of Monkey Island*, and to be able to play a platformer with that graphical style was a proper treat.

A screenshot shows what looks like a large warehouse, with the right half obscured in darkness. From the darkness, voices emerge hinting at peril.
This scene is dark. No, I mean it’s dark.

In gameplay terms, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another recent pixelised title, The Way Remastered. Everything from graphics to dialogue is done slightly better here, but the combination of puzzles, platforming, and time-trial action is very similar. None of the elements presented are really that challenging, but the game is quite extensive so it’s not over in a hurry by any means.

Everything feels very linear in Ministry of Broadcast, so the amount of variety imbued in a few of the puzzles is impressive. The game occasionally suffers from slightly too much ‘progress without meaningful input’, although it’s trying to tell a story, so that’s forgivable to an extent.

Protesters are attack (by 'sadistic pigs', according to one) whilst the player watches from above.
Ministry’s many scenes are full of detail and amusing dialogue

One of Ministry’s most interesting aspects is that sense of dilemma, of choosing whether to be good or evil, and trying to determine just how much choice you have. The idea plays in perfectly with the overarching theme, and ultimately left me with many unanswered questions. Whilst not entirely satisfying, the game certainly made me think (and feel!) a lot more than a typical platformer tends to.

Verdict

😆

Ministry of Broadcast is not the finest platformer you’ll ever encounter, but that feels slightly beside the point anyway. If you like a game that makes you think — both cognitively, and emotionally — that’s wrapped up in a glorious retro veneer, you’ll be hard pushed to do much better than this.

I played Ministry of Broadcast on Nintendo Switch, for about 6 hours and I only collected 5 of the 12 shoes (yes, shoes) initially available. It’s not really a game that you can revisit without starting right from the beginning, which is tempting, but difficult for such a story-based experience.

I paid £8.09 for Ministry of Broadcast which I think is right on the nose for what it is. The game was developed and published by Ministry of Broadcast Studio, a small team that I really hope will go on to produce more.