The tagline says it all: “What if you control the news?”
In Unbound Creations’ two-part Headliner series, you play a news editor who has to decide what stories get published each day. Your choices will have a big impact on public opinion which, in turn, affects the overall story.
Gameplay in the first one, simply called Headliner, is simple: you’re given a number of stories each day and you decide which ones to print. You need to boost your paper’s revenue so you’re encouraged to committ to a certain angle and, in some cases, deliberately stoke controversy.
The idea behind the game is interesting but it goes from 0 to 100 too quickly and often the game’s reactions to your choices feel forced.
The sequel, NoviNews, is a big improvement.
The basic gameplay loop is the same but the devs have added a number of major changes.
Readership numbers are now not your only concern. You also have to juggle your stance on the government and big business to protect your paper’s income.
Do you stick to the truth no matter the cost, or do you take a more flattering stance so as not to upset the powers that be? It’s not as easy as you might think.
The other characters you can interact with are much better written and will be impacted in different ways by the choices you make, which give the game much higher stakes.
Headliner is a far cry from the real thing but it serves as a strong statement on the power mainstream media has to shape public discourse, as well as the many different pressures that newsrooms face.
Both Headliner and NoviNews are available on Steam and itch.io.