Censorship is something I have always been against. I am all up for making sure children are not scarred, but similar to art, I think it is important to express the full picture of what someone wants to tell, and let logic, intelligence, and the truth spare us from distrusting comments. However, what if you are pressured by higher powers to censor your work, knowing you could potentially damage yourself and loved ones if you don’t?
From the developers at Double Zero One Zero, we get The Westport Independent, a game that draws comparisons to Papers, Please. Not just because they share similar gameplay and artstyle, but also due to both expressing a political message, with this one being more about censorship. We are set in a society where rebels and government are at each other’s throat, and it is up to you, as the editor of a newspaper, to choose what to publish and what not. So let’s see how easy this could be.
My newsPaper, Please?
Playing as an editor for a newspaper, it is your job to look at multiple articles, and choose which and what to publish. You will be able to choose what paragraphs you wish to censor and pick between two headlines for each article. What you must take in consideration before publishing, are many things. For the company itself, you will have to be aware of which side the newspaper seems to be on. The rebels and the loyalists to the government are fighting each other and both will keep an eye on what you publish. However, the most troubling, will be the loyalists, as there is even a suspicion-meter depending on what you publish. Too much criticism against the government and it is game over.
At your disposal, are 4 journalists who can take one article each to publish. However, they too will have a say in what articles they can and can’t work on. They too are watched individually by the loyalists through a suspicion-meter, have their own political views that can either be moderate or extreme to either side, and also a comfort-meter. The more they are proud to publish, the more they will be at peace. You can force someone to publish an article against their will, but that will make their comfy-meter go down and might make someone quit their job.
Lastly, there are the readers. You have 4 areas you can publish your weekly news to: north, west, east, and south, each with their own two topics of interests. The topics include celebrities, industrial, crime and society-news. After the first week you’ll be able to look at what topics you tackle and how often, and then you can choose the amount to publish in each region. These choices will affect the sales of the newspaper, its popularity for each region, and maybe affect the area’s political view.
You will have 12 weeks before the game is over, each consisting of making a newspaper with 4 articles and where to publish them. While this is an intriguing element, there is little that happens in between. There might be a letter about your articles or an event coming up, but unless you go out of your way to make either side hate you, nothing will happen except maybe a new article you can choose to publish. I also wished the suspicion-meter did not existed, as the rebels can be a danger as well. It could have made the game more interesting if both extremist factions were watching you. To clarify, it certainly is a political game about censorship and it’s understandable to make the government the main-bad guy with rebels being a minor threat, but it would have been interesting with a more impartial setup.
These weeks will also fly by and you can finish one run in less than an hour. It is certainly appealing in how simple and easy The Westport Independent is to pick up and play and while there is not much more to it to vary up the gameplay or any tensions to your actions, the game is enjoyable enough for the one hour it takes to play through, and it does not overstay its welcome.
Story and Gameplay Score: 7/10
Charming, but limited
With the black and brownish-tone, it really feels like we are set in one of the older days, supposedly the early 1900s. It is a pretty nice setup of colors to create the illusion of when this is supposed to take place, with good pixel art complementing this, and they blend well together due to their nostalgic value. However, you will only see a couple of different screens, and they simply feel limited. It could have been a good way to make the days feel barren and life empty, but since we are put in a world where anything from celebrity-gossip, scientific discoveries and rebels occur, it is not effective and more visuals of the daily lives, such as photographs for example, could have gone a long way to paint a bigger picture. The cutscene in the beginning and some of the many photos you can get to see at the end, are very effective for giving a good atmosphere, but more visuals could have gone a long way to give this game a clearer identity.
The music is similar in quality. What is here, are catchy jazz-pieces with the intro making me feel sooth and comfortable. However, while jazz is certainly a music-genre that can give an atmosphere, here all the music-pieces sound too similar unfortunately. The beat, type of instruments, and even their notes are eerily similar and it can easily fool you into thinking there are only a couple of songs in this game. The presentation is well done, but there could have been more to it.
Presentation Score: 6.5/10
Caring about results more than what you write
There are plenty of different endings for north, west, east, and south-regions depending on your actions, as well as the outcome of your newspaper and the employees there. The game also only takes about one hour to play through, so it is easy to replay for multiple endings. Unfortunately, while The Westport Independent is quite enjoyable, the missed opportunity for more variation in the main-game is unfortunately a huge negative. If there was more to it, such as certain events occurring or perhaps some different employees you could hire, it could have made the game more intriguing to replay. The short game time and different endings certainly help, but there also needs to be more to the journey itself. At least the articles you can publish change from week to week.
Extras Score: 6/10
A common factor throughout this, is the simple fact that there should have been more. I adore the game for its setup, such as having only 12 weeks to finish the game for replay value, and I like the simple yet intriguing concept of the gameplay. But The Westport Independent needs more to keep me interested post end-game and in the visuals, especially due to having a world that is supposedly eventful. However, if you fancy yourself a mobile-gamer, it is not a bad choice for relaxing with a good cup of coffee. Just don’t expect weekly revisits.