30 Jan
  • By Josh Zirl
  • Cause in

Compact Gameplay, Enjoyable Experience found in Small Radios, Big Televisions.

Small Radios Big Televisions is, for the most part, a very tranquil, point-and-click puzzle game.  The particulars of the story are a large part of the rather short game (I completed it in a little over 90 minutes), so I won’t go into much detail here.  Suffice it to say that you are tasked with making your way through a series of abandoned outposts, solving a mix of puzzles that vary between being physics-based and clicking on a series of interactables in the correct sequence.

The puzzles are rarely difficult, though some of the more physics-based ones are a bit finicky in a way that I am not sure was intentional.  Trying to get certain levers to stay in place, for example, involved some wide swings with the mouse, as the movement was not one-to-one.  The lack of any real instruction can also be an impediment, as some of the objects you interact with act differently based on their orientation, despite having the same model.  I know these descriptions are unhelpful, but I want to make it clear that the presentation of certain elements could have been improved without spoiling anything for would-be players.  Despite occasional setbacks, I still found the game to be a calming one and enjoyed slowly uncovering the philosophical sci-fi plot, which, while not groundbreaking, was interesting enough to keep me progressing and looking out for any secrets that would add a little bit to the world.

While the game never really changes tone, there are several sections which dramatically alter the controls.  Most of the footage of the game makes it seem very accessible, and it generally is.  The vast majority is point-and-click gameplay on a static screen, but in order to unlock the keys, you’ll need to click on orbs within a moving landscape.  These sections loop and are not especially fast, but do require click and dragging to look around, however the orbs do stand out, as all interactive objects in the game are highlighted.  There is also one very brief, exploratory section near the end of the game that is first person and requires WASD movement.  Even with some of the design choices, the game could have been made for mouse-only control, but this is sadly not possible, as there is no way to rebind the keys, and the onscreen keyboard does not function.

Aside from the mobility issues, the only other annoyance was in its subtitles, which is the game’s only way of communicating story since it lacks voice acting.  During the story interludes, there is a blurring and static effect on the subtitles, which can make them difficult to read at times.

Overall, my time with Small Radios Big Televisions was a brief but enjoyable one.  Though the accessibility of the game was not up to par with the creativity of its varied design, the pacing still allows for a more measured, steady approach, which is a nice contrast to a market that is often flooded with fast-paced action games.

Pros:

  • Mostly a point-and-click puzzle game
  • Plot is entirely told through subtitles
  • All interactable objects are brightly lit or highlighted when moused over

Cons:

  • Some sections where the game is in first person
  • No key rebinds and onscreen keyboard does not work
  • Subtitle font is not always easy to read
  • No tutorials, hints, or other instructions as to how to proceed

 

A screenshot from Small Radios, Big Televisions showing a cutscene from the game. A red laser is going through a lens into a mysterious grey stone, with the caption “They never actually told me. Optimism, I guess. To give people a sense that things could get better, that somehow everything could be normal again one day.” The caption is slightly distorted, like the words are hit with static interference.