|The Westport Independent allows you to chop and change articles and make sensationalist headlines... or is it just conveying the truth?|
- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Double Zero One Zero
- Publisher: Coffee Stain Studios
- Release Date: 22 January 2016
- Time played: 1.5 hours
Most of the games that I review on this blog happen to be Steam games and when I talk about my games backlog, I'm predominantly talking about this platform. However, did you know I have several other backlogs too? I have a backlog of games on Good Old Games (GOG.com), Origin and UPlay. I even have a physical "pile of shame" sitting on my desk (actually I should take a photo of it sometime). Really, I ought to be renaming my blog to "Choicest Pile of Shame" instead but I digress.
The reason I mentioned backlogs besides Steam is because this particular game, The Westport Independent happens to be one from my GOG backlog which is probably my second largest backlog after Steam. Thankfully, despite hundreds of games, my GOG library is mostly populated by classic games I played in my youth instead of newer ones so most are just sitting there to be re-experienced rather than experienced for the first time. The Westport Independent however, fits in the latter category as it was only released earlier this year.
So what's this game about? Well, you play the role of a newspaper editor for the eponymous "Westport Independent" but you live in a country run by an almost fascist government that is attempting to bring in full press censorship within a matter of days. It's up to you to choose what stories to publish in the paper and whether you try to sensationalise the headlines or not. You're also given the opportunity to censor particular passages of each story as well as choose which stories make the front page. Depending on how you spin your stories and what you choose to publish, this affects your standing with the government known as "The Loyalist Party" and the Rebels (who are quite unhappy at what the current government is doing).
To make things even more challenging, your editorial staff have different political leanings too and will feel uncomfortable writing particular stories that go against their beliefs (although you can always force them to write the article which contributes to their stress). Also, if one of your writers types up too many articles embarrassing the government, you run the risk of forcing them into "early retirement".
What I like:
Like Papers, Please, except running a newspaperThis game is obviously inspired by Papers, Please; the drab and dreary, sepia toned art style, the ethical dilemmas you face while working under an oppressive, totalitarian regime, even the drag-and-drop control scheme is similar. As you know, I really enjoyed Papers, Please so trying to mimic its success isn't such a bad idea – but while the game is similar to a degree (except you're running a newspaper instead of approving visas) there are some differences as well that I will go into later.
Classy musicI love the classy, jazz/lounge music that plays in the game; it's a straight-forward choice considering the era the game is set in (the late 1940s).
Detailed epilogueI love games that take the effort to do a proper epilogue and The Westport Independent doesn't disappoint in this department. In fact, all the choices you make in the game will have some impact on how the epilogue turns out.
What I dislike:
Difficult to figure out what's going onDespite the game giving you some basic tutorials on how to do things, some dynamics aren't explained at all. For example, you might want to make sure that the government doesn't get suspicious of your staff being rebel sympathisers since if they do, they might be facing "early retirement". You could force your journalists to write an article that is an affront to their political beliefs but I believe this causes stress which is probably not a good thing either, but they don't quite explain why (does it increase the likelihood of them taking time off? Or are they more likely to resign? Who knows?). Also, when it comes to marketing your paper do you actually want to invest more money in suburbs that are less likely to read your paper to compensate for the lack of articles that interest them? Or is that just money down the drain and you should just focus on the suburbs that are more likely to read your paper?
I guess, you'd normally use trial and error to figure out which way you should go but the minimal or cryptic feedback from your actions means it's going to require a lot of trial and error before you finally figure out what's going on. I'm sure some players have probably already figured it out, mind you, but I think you'd need a lot of patience in order to do so, patience that most people don't have.
Minimal impact on endings?Unlike Papers, Please where there were multiple endings, some of them with quite distinct differences, this doesn't seem to be the case with The Westport Independent. After playing the game a few times, even when I was trying my best to lean one way politically over another, there only seemed to be minor changes in how the epilogue transpired. So while the epilogue is indeed detailed, there's probably little point to the detail if it's going to be mostly the same from playthrough to playthrough.
ShortOne game is really short taking no more than 20 minutes to complete. While this isn't entirely bad in itself, considering there doesn't seem to be too much difference in terms of the endings, as I mentioned above, you're not going to want to replay the game that many times which means you'll probably only get 1 or 2 hours of gameplay before you're pretty much done with the game.
Score – 7/10 (Not Bad)
Is the game worth $9.99 USD?: No. It's a bit steep considering the game has very limited replay value. Sure you can get slightly different endings and potentially different conversations between your journalists depending on which news articles you choose but not enough to warrant the price. A fairer price would've been $5 USD.
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[ LINK: Official The Westport Independent Website ]