I’ll be honest with you: I’ve always had a soft spot for pixel art. And by ‘soft spot’, I mean ‘mild obsession’. When I saw Ministry of Broadcast, I knew I had to get it for that reason alone. An action platformer; it combines beautiful art, excellent dialogue, and addictive (if sometimes mildly frustrating) gameplay. It’s what I call a ‘just five more minutes’ kind of game – the kind that will keep you up past your bedtime.
We’ve got to talk about the story first. Ministry of Broadcast is a ‘cinematic platformer’, and I’d say that about sums it up. As the main character, you’re dumped right into the action without much preamble. You’re competing in a game show – the kind that involves death and gore. Your goal seems to be solving puzzles and completing platforming tasks each day to progress through the show.
It’s inspired by 1984, with Big Brother-style eyes watching your every step. Thrown into this dystopian, freezing landscape (without shoes), you’re expected to just get on with it. The story isn’t fed to you directly. Instead, you can pick it up as you go along by taking the time to listen to the conversations of other contestants and guards. There’s a great section later in the game that goes into the backstory, which I enjoyed.
The game introduces some moral problems pretty early on. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but it ramps up the brutality, especially towards the end. There are multiple endings to go for, so if you want to find out everything you can about the world and the main character, it’s worth pursuing them all.
There’s a strong Oddworld kind of vibe here, making the gameplay feel familiar and nostalgic. You’ll creep around murderous guards and work your way through satisfying puzzles. You’ll also make some pretty desperate decisions about whether or not to sacrifice your competitors to get ahead.
It’s also reminiscent of Prince of Persia. In faster-paced moments, you’ll die again and again in an attempt to memorise exactly what to do. So you can expect to fail quite a lot. Upon death, The Crow (more on her in a minute) sweeps over to give you a sarcastic comment while you die in a heap on the ground. Or tangled up in spikes, or at the mouth of a guard dog. Just, you know, to rub salt in the wound. You can skip the sarcasm by pressing ‘-‘, launching you straight back into the action.
Some of the platforming elements of Ministry of Broadcast can be frustrating. While you do get in the groove of dying, again and again, there were moments when I died just because I was a pixel or so away from where I should be standing.
I can see this being a bit annoying for some people. It kind of depends on what you’re in the mood for. I always say that games were harder when I was a kid (ignoring the existence of Souls games for a minute). Lack of choice back in the ’90s meant that you were willing to stick with a game no matter how brutally it punished you for not being perfect. I found it weirdly comforting to keep failing because the mechanics felt familiar. Plus, the payoff when you nail a difficult section gives you a proper endorphin boost, which makes it worth sticking with it. There are moments where the action does feel cinematic.
Okay, back to The Crow. The Crow is your companion in this game, and she becomes a trusted presence, although one that really enjoys watching you die. The Crow, along with the rest of the characters, has some sharp, witty one-liners to throw at you (and they will because most of them hate you). It’s a funny game, with a dark sense of humour breaking up the existential gloom of the plot.
Ministry of Broadcast is a Czech game, and mostly, the translation to English is done well. There are a few occasions where a sentence might not make sense, or just doesn’t quite land right, but mostly it works well.
Ministry of Broadcast is gorgeous to look at. The pixel art is excellent. With well-chosen colour palettes, they’re good at giving the illusion of depth and height, given the minimal style. It’s the kind of game that makes me want to take dozens of screenshots. And then post them on Twitter. (Which I did, obviously.)
Plus, they do gore pretty well. Broken bones, blood splatters, and explosions are rendered creepily well given the number of pixels they had to work with.
I’ve played a lot of indie pixel-art games over the past few years, but there’s something unique about Ministry of Broadcast. I think it’s the combination of humour and darkness, of death and grime mixed with funny moments.
While the platforming may be frustrating at times, especially when you’ve died way too many times already, it’s definitely a game that keeps you on your toes. The world-building is great, and it’s a satisfying game to complete, especially if you can hunt down all the endings.