In a lot of ways, the 2D platformer is the perfect video game genre. There’s no finer test of precision, timing, accuracy, and coordination. In my opinion, at least. And platforming games have been my favorite genre for over 30 years.
The developers of Ministry of Broadcast seem to understand my pressing need to platform my face off, and that their art form is more than just a cute diversion. More than perhaps any genre, platformers—especially the side-scrolling sort—have benefited from creative developers pushing the limits of what pixel art can be, and how frantic gameplay can be, while still being entertaining.
Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV helped make the simple-yet-insane format popular and git-gud gamers seemed to really appreciate the challenge. The Metroidvania is its own subgenre, and indie developers have been cranking out really high-quality ones. (Keep ’em coming!) But Ministry of Broadcast offers something distinctly different.
Ministry of Broadcast Gameplay
Rather than opting for that frantic, balls-to-the-wall jumping-around madness, the developers decided to give Ministry of Broadcast a slower, more deliberate style. Rather than reflexes, this game emphasizes strategy and requires some more creative thinking. Also, you may have to murder some folks.
There is still plenty of precision platforming, but it’s presented in a format more along the lines of classic, retro platformers like Flashback, the original Prince of Persia, or Blackthorne, albeit with a much smaller emphasis on gunplay.
In fact, the protagonist in Ministry of Broadcast never has an actual firearm, though he does possess some deadly finger-guns. Not joking.
This style of platforming is much more puzzle-centric, though you will find yourself often racing against the clock to beat obstacles like rising water, or to literally race your opponent to the top of a mountain. (Your opponent just rides in the elevator while you are forced to parkour your way up cliffs. Seems unfair, huh?) You’ll have to think, and not all solutions are immediately obvious.
There is a fair deal of box-pushing and a little bit of timed jumping. A few of the puzzles will really make you have to stop and rethink your entire
life approach. On one puzzle I had to cheat and watch a lets-play. The guy attempting the puzzle in the video also had a hell of a time finding the solution. He said naughty words. But eventually he figured it out.
Despite one or two brain-benders, I think the puzzles are just right. You might need some trial and error to figure a few out, but Ministry of Broadcast allows you to reset your progress back to the most recent checkpoint by simply pressing the start button. There’s no penalty that I know of, except you might miss a hardcore achievement. But until you’re really familiar with Ministry of Broadcast, you’ll probably be pushing the reset button a lot.
Fortunately, the checkpoints aren’t terribly far apart. It makes it challenging, but fair. The whole game is, really. I finished it on normal difficulty in about 9 hours.
In a game like Ministry of Broadcast, controls are especially important. And this style of platforming dictates that a single press of the D-pad will have one corresponding movement.
Tap left to turn left. Tap up to jump straight up and grab a ledge if one’s there. Tap up again to pull yourself up, but if you wait a second or two, you’ll lose your grip and fall back down.
Gauging jump distance is pretty important in this game, You’ll need a running start sometimes, and sometimes a running start will send you over the far edge of your platform. However, Ministry of Broadcast does an excellent job of handling the subtleties of controlling a 2D parkour-style game.
It can be tricky sometimes, especially when you’re hop-scotching across a series of gaps or suspended platforms where one wrong move will send you plummeting to your gruesome death. But I mean, that’s platformers for you, right?
At any rate, the devs strike a great balance with a challenge that can be satisfying and frustrating, but never as a result of shoddy controls. No complaints at all in that department.
It’s a dystopian future, and everything seems to be ruled by this one reality show. But is there even any reality beyond the show? Or is the show literally all society has become? Yeah. It’s one of those kind of games. Luckily, the devs are pretty good at being subtle and only occasionally force their trippy dystopian lore on you.
The Wall Show works like this: Contestants work their way through the show’s season. There is a large cast for the show, but only one of the characters (our Shoeless protagonist) seems to be doing anything. Everyone else is just playing out their assigned roles and trying not go get killed by the Regime’s police forces, angry dogs, spikes, water, or other obstacles.
The other characters will react to Shoeless appropriately to how he’s treated them previously. You don’t get to choose how you treat them, by the way. The game is entirely linear. (Except for the endings.) Most often, NPCs are terrified of Shoeless.
Probably this is due to the way he takes ruthless advantage of anybody that stands in his way of completing the show season, mounting The Wall, and being reunited with his family.
The Wall is certainly an allegory for… something? I tried not to read too much into the story. It’s enough to say that the player is in a future where people’s fates are decided by the whims of the Ministry of Broadcast.
The story of this game is interesting, and it unfolds within the context of the actual gameplay. At times it is intrusive, but the narrator, a gnarly old talking crow, seems to understand and even has a little 4th-wall fun at the player’s expense. The humor here is also subtle, and very well done.
The crow is an ongoing character both in-game, and on Twitter. That’s right, the crow has his own Twitter account. He considers himself to be “The True Hero of Ministry of Broadcast.” Check it out.
Graphics & Sound
Graphics are meant to give an Orwellian, depressed sort of feeling. And, well, they are intentionally ugly. The chunky pixels and muted colors work extremely well within the context of the sad, diminished world where the game takes place. The dev’s treatment of lighting within the game is pretty nice and gives a bit more depth and feeling to the look of the game.
I always appreciate when a game emphasizes gameplay over graphics, so I’m fine with it. You can run the Steam version of this game at a gazillion frames per second without skipping a beat. That’s especially nice in a game where precision platforming is necessary.
The environments can feel a bit repetitive, there is some variety in where you can go, but the whole game takes place in a cold, snowy, and unfeeling future world. Like a faux Soviet gulag. There are some underground areas, a factory, a mountainside. But the limited color palette is what it is. It works.
Of far greater interest is the game’s soundtrack. Ministry of Broadcast knows when to be quiet. It also knows when to party and when to build tension. It also knows how to create a sense of irony with a catchy, whimsical tune at a tense moment.
But mostly, the music, like everything else in this game, is subtle. Often, there is no music at all. Just the natural ambiance of a world gone mad.
The sound effects are good, too. You can really hear Shoeless’s bones crunch and snap as he falls to his frequent death. And with the stretches of silence or low-key music, you can actually -um- appreciate it.
The Verdict – Is it any good?
Ministry of Broadcast likely won’t change your life. But it’s a solid play with challenging puzzles, an interesting story, pleasant pixel graphics, multiple endings, and enough achievements and hidden shoes to keep you busy.
As I mentioned, my regular play-through (not going for achievements or secrets at all) took about 9 hours. So if you’re the completionist, or just like to goof around, you could definitely squeeze a lot more play time out of this game.
Be warned however, that this meticulous style of platforming might not suit all tastes. I read a different review that hated the controls. Apparently, the writer felt that this style of game was cool 30 years ago but today’s gamers won’t have patience for it. I think that’s garbage. If modern players can put up with Dark Souls, they can figure this out. And in my opinion, Ministry of Broadcast is a much more satisfying play. Neener-neener.
So yes, I’d say this game is definitely good. It’s a different style of platformer that just doesn’t get enough love these days.
Side note from the devs: Interestingly, they had to censor a character’s nipple for the Japanese Switch version. That’s right. Just the one nipple. The world is a strange place.