The news cycle is complicated and that’s not news at all. But Headliner: Novi News will give you an insider’s perspective to the industry with the job of a newspaper headliner. The news is in your hands.
Headliner: NoviNews is an indie game from Unbound Creations that first released in October 2018 on Steam. The core concept of the game is that it gives you control over the news that gets published by a nation’s top newspaper. Your walk home is full of conversations that you can have with coworkers, family members, police officers, and even more characters as you progress through the game.
Where is this newspaper located? In the fine nation of Novistan of course. This fictional country is set in the near future where companies make beer with no health consequences, genetically engineered people roam the streets, the debate over healthcare is fierce, drones roam the sky, and international tensions are high.
Everything feels like its ready to fall apart and I’m pretty sure at least one thing will as you play-through the game.
The cause and effect emphasis for the choice based game was heavily implied as I started the game and I was paranoid about everything I did. My choices would affect the future version of myself, my family, my dog, and my drone? Novi News has a lot of moving parts that can be overwhelming at times but the clear multiple replay orientation of this game got me excited to go through them all.
Front Page Material
I enjoyed the presentation and art style of the game which gave the backgrounds and people walking through the streets a sense of being alive while feeling dramatic when it needs to be.
NoviNews is all about showing players how much power the media has and how even trying to be transparent has its limits. While it’s not perfect in its depiction of this multilayered conversation, it includes a great variety of perspectives and issues that come from a headline driven news cycle.
You get read text bubbles of conversations that people have as you walk by them on your way home in addition to full interactions. Depending which articles have published, you’ll be able to help certain characters reach their goals while making it much harder for other characters to reach theirs.
Money can become scarce if you misbehave at work and get a paycut so it’s important to keep this in mind whenever you’re tempted to break the rules. You can use it to buy furniture which will carry over to your next play-through, buy dog food and treats if you want to keep your pet happy, or use it to help pay for costs that your family might have.
While a play-through takes about an hour, getting a specific result requires your undivided attention so it’s difficult to jump back into after leaving in the middle of a play-through for multiple days.
Conversations, disposable currency, and publishing or even not publishing an article can factor into the ending you receive. And the articles that you are given each day will have a random element to them so you can’t always plan out your desired outcome.
Your desk at the office will eventually show you a bar graph showing how many positive and negative articles you have decided to publish. Characters have different dialogue every day and if you aren’t figuring out which articles and which answers you have been giving them the previous days you might end up wasting a play-through.
The endings account for basically all the decisions you make and if are trying to explore the endings for multiple characters it can be pretty challenging to balance your time between them. This is both a crutch and an achievement for the game because the player is torn between saving someone, keeping your job, or doing the right thing in some cases.
There a few features that would strengthen the overall core of the game along with general player experience. This includes a branching path chart to let players understand where their situation stems from and how they can better manipulate it. Having a way to skip through dialogue that you have seen in other play-throughs already. But those are minor complaints for this game which generally lays the groundwork for a stressful time that will invite to play multiple times.
It seems like there might be no single ending that ensures everyone’s happiness and well-being which is frustrating but intentionally so. I recommend this game if you like testing your choices and seeing their domino effect as you progress through the game. I wish you could save at different points since there are so many small decisions to keep track of and I want to make sure the game remembers them if I want to rush to the end of the day.
Promotes Critical thinking
Quality of Life features
Final thoughts: Headliner: NoviNews is the scoop that will have you hooked for at least 2 playthroughs and hopefully even more after that. The surprise factor is fairly strong and sudden so it’s hard to find a sense of safety as you go through your day. I recommend getting this game if you know you can focus on the story progression for a consecutive block of time because it can be jarring to jump in after leaving a play-through for a while. Hopefully you’ll walk away from this game with the urge to look beyond the headline.
A review code for Headliner: NoviNews was provided by Unbound for the purpose of this review.