Game review: Small Radios Big Televisions – a fond tribute to analogue technology

This bizarrely enticing psychedelic puzzle-exploration game from indie producer harks back to the days of cassette tapes, but needs more storyline

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 3:00pm

Small Radios Big Televisions

Fire Face Corporation

3.5/5 stars

The indie trend is a godsend for gamers. For years, we intrepid gamers have been facing a lack of choice: either big-budget, overpriced releases or bargain-basement, small-time developer crap. But now, any developer with a bit of creativity and plenty of time is able to put out something great – or just decidedly weird.

Small Radios Big Televisions is a bizarrely enticing game, one that harks back to those days when physical media dominated our lives. The focus here is on cassette tapes, rather than gaming discs, but the world it offers is both different and highly retro-reverential. Players skulk their way through a series of maze-like industrial buildings and factories, discovering cryptic tapes that send them far into hallucinogenic-like worlds when played.

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There are puzzles along the way and unlocking a tape’s mystery allows you to traverse through hidden doors, but none of it feels particularly challenging or demanding. The game can be completed in as little as two hours, but a large part of the appeal here is losing yourself in its faraway world.

Floating through the factories and their accompanying analogue attachments is smooth and almost soothing, certainly aided by an incredibly hypnotic blend of 2D and 3D visuals. And while the narrative of the game is almost frustratingly enigmatic, the mystery becomes fascinating.

We hoped there’d be a bit more story, maybe a couple more cut scenes – but when you consider that this was created by a single developer who wrote, developed, visualised, produced, created and launched the game, you can almost excuse the minor flaws.

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Almost, but not quite. Like low-budget films or dime-store books, games have to be measured on their own merit, and Small Radios is no different. There’s something to be said about physical media – a materialistic sense of attachment that allows you to appreciate the curated songs on a mixtape, the beat-up box of a VHS, the groove on an LP.

This is something that has almost disappeared from our online-only world, and Small Radios acts as an impressively haunting love letter to that soon-to-be-lost era.