Your job in Headliner: NoviNews is to deliver the news to society. You start your days picking what to publish, then walk home. On your stroll, you see how the news has changed the way people think and even act. The game is all story with walking in between. Based on what you choose to publish, there are several endings available. It’s fairly short but meant to be played a few times through to take in all of the outcomes available. It covers quite a few topics but the main theme is people getting sick: mostly corporate corruption with the sacrifice of health in order to make a profit. You can publish articles warning people or promoting the products that could potentially be causing harm. The moral choices are yours. Even if you aren’t the one doing the actions, feeding the community the information will have a huge impact.
Here’s what I liked:
Ruthless — You’re in control of public opinion. What you choose to publish will have consequences that can either be helpful to the city or worsen it. One of the most interesting is the shopkeeper. You can convince him to sell a product, then publish articles that make him look really bad. This ends up with his shop burning down and ruins his life. On the other hand, you can promote the product you convince him to sell, making him very happy and successful. You’ll later have a chance to use your persuasion to reveal an evil company. Will you do the right thing or let the events unfold without intervention?
Routine Job — The pacing is actually fabulous. You talk to the boss, do your job, then walk through the city discovering the results of your actions. You do this at your own pace, there is no need to rush back home to go to sleep. You can shop or just save your money. The interactions are mostly optional. Don’t want to talk to certain people? Just run on by them. Everything is very straightforward and not hard to learn. If you quit you can get right back into it the next time from the day you left. You can utilize quitting to change your actions if you want to kind of cheat the system. I started a second playthrough right after beating the game so that I could try and get different endings.
Investigating a Murder — The most intriguing side story is to solve a murder. After your first playthrough, you unlock a new NPC to interact with. She has a case she needs help with, and as the days go on, you start to get to the bottom of it. It made the second time through very much worth it. It changed most of my days and gave me more to do. It’s possible to mess up and may take a few attempts to figure out the right path to figuring it out. You can solve the crime, cause the killer to escape even knowing who it is, or just downright fail. The only downside is there was nothing else to unlock after. It made the next time through a bit boring.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Dog and Drone Nanny — You can choose to take a lost puppy home as well as a drone. It lessens the otherwise lonely apartment but adds a little stress. You have to feed the dog and provide the drone with batteries. Money can get very tight in the game, specifically after making some decisions that lead to a cut in pay. There are a few times that you will need money to advanced certain storylines. Getting someone out of jail is not cheap, and there is a point where you must pay someone for information. If you don’t have the money, you’ll miss out. So spending money every single day to make sure your dog and drone are happy can cause you to ignore them in every other playthrough. If you don’t feed your dog, there will be a mob of angry people who are picketing that it’s animal abuse. Ignore them? There are consequences to that too. Kind of sad, so I’d rather just play without them.
Confusing Publication — There isn’t much direction for where your publications lead. I found it tough to balance certain things and just got lucky when I picked the right stories. One example that isn’t related to the news is your brother. You can try to help him succeed in his passion or ignore him. I tried to help him three times but failed to get the achievement for him making it big. I feel like I tried everything, so there must be something I had to publish that was a bit less obvious. There wasn’t enough lore to let you know what was really going on in the world. For such a story-driven game, I’m not sure why even after playing three times I still didn’t feel very informed on most of the material.
The idea is really good. I just love being able to put myself in a job that I normally don’t do. I think that’s why the simulation games are so popular. I wanted more out of it. I didn’t mind it being short, but sometimes it felt there was less control than you should have. It turned into mostly guesses on how you could affect an outcome. There’s a promising moment when you complete it the first time. A new plotline is introduced and it excites you for more added content every time you completed the game. Sadly, it was the only one. I would very much have appreciated my playthroughs to add even more content. Serious subjects are tackled, and you can get people killed or ruin someone’s life, just because you picked what news the community read about. Similar to how a review works, if I said it’s the best thing I’ve ever played, it may make you want to play it even if it wasn’t true. Ironically, it falls right into the middle.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Headliner: NoviNews was published by Chorus Worldwide Games and developed by Unbound Creations on Xbox One. It was released on December 11, 2019, for $13.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.