Local News with Cliff Rockslide | Review | Switch

  • Developer: Horsefly Games
  • Publisher: Bonus Stage Publishing
  • Release Date: 11/5/2023
  • Price: £8.29 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Bonus Stage Publishing

Introducing: Local News with Cliff Rockslide Review

If there’s one thing that I’ve found that I like, it’s games that are about doing a job that I likely wouldn’t enjoy nearly as much in real life. I’m a big fan of Papers, Please and I even spent quite a bit of time playing Paperboy when I was a kid. So when a chance to play another game all about working a menial job came my way, well I had to give it a shot, even if I was going to end up more like an unpaid intern than an actual employee.

On the Job

Local News with Cliff Rockslide is exactly that. You’re working with reporter Cliff Rockslide to produce some of the hardest hitting local news that you can imagine. Oh, just one thing though… Cliff is actually an online streamer who more fancies himself a reporter than has been actually successful at it and you’re not getting paid until the stream hits the threshold of 100 followers to be able to monetize the thing. There’s also not exactly a lot of exciting news going on in his very, very, small town. For now, you’re just following along as Cliff’s cameraperson as he embarks on a quest to find the newsiest news.

To little surprise, what starts off as a few tiny hometown stories eventually grows and spirals to involve cults, giant vegetables, sentient cubes, zombies, and a giant demonic goose. This is a game that is clearly not taking things too seriously and is having a lot of fun with what they’re going for. It’s comedic, but the problem with that is that the comedy is going to be hit or miss depending on your style of humor. For me, I found it to just be a little more miss than hit, but as comedy is so subjective, your mileage will, of course, vary. There’s a lot of humor that comes from people just being kind of stupid or oblivious, which I think is something that is a little hard to pull off in pure text.

Buried deep in there, there’s also a small story about familial reconciliation since Cliff comes from the humble stock of farmers and his family doesn’t really get what he’s trying to do as he runs about doing his little news show. It’s a nice little bit of heart in there, but how much that will impact you is predicated somewhat on how invested you’re actually able to get in the characters themselves.

Zoom and Enhance

The ability to zoom in on Cliff while running around town does make him seem like something of a local cryptid.

But, how exactly is working the job your given? Once again, I think this game is more miss than hit when it comes to the gameplay department. You see, for most of the game you’re going to be running around controlling the view of the stream. That seems very important, right? Well, the issue is that where you’re looking only really matters when you’re the designated news segments. When those play out, you’ll be locked in place and different elements of the world and characters will get an outline around them to indicate where your camera should focus. Green outline for a wide shot, purple to be zoomed in. This is fun at first, but the cracks do start to show pretty quick. 

In order to know where to look, you’ll quickly find yourself finding a neutral position that you can reset to between each of the focus moments so that you can have a view of every potential option, as if something is out of your field of view when it gets highlighted, there’s no indicator to let you know that, meaning that you need to reset yourself to this neutral position in order to know where you might be going next. Dialog is an indicator, sure, but not always. This means that much of your playtime during these segments will fall into a pattern of: focus, reset, focus, reset, zoom focus, reset. As a result, your recording will look less like handheld camera news coverage than you might expect. 

That is if you even bother all that much with playing along the way the game wants you to. I never outright failed any of these sequences as they’re pretty easy, but I don’t feel like there’s much of a failure state. The only difference I could see between me scoring 2 or 3 stars was the number of subscribers I got at the end. These segments end up feeling inconsequential and repetitive, but also easy enough that getting through them is a cakewalk. The early portion of the game is certainly something carried more by the writing than the gameplay.

Live on Sene

However, the real miss is when the game deviates from this format…

You see, early on there is moment where you’re able to roam a little more freely to seek out the news on your own. Later on, you get to explore a house by yourself and find clues in a mild escape room type setup. This is the real turning point where the news reporting segments fade out almost entirely to focus on new elements, to the detriment of the game. The news parts might have gotten admittedly a little boring and repetitive by that point, but what replaced them wasn’t any better.

At this point there are indeed zombies that can follow you as you take on certain short fetch quests to gather supplies you need to deal with the plot, though you wouldn’t know it. The zombies follow so far behind you and you have no reason to look behind that only stopping in place and deliberately looking is how you’ll know they’re there aside from the audio cue that plays. There’s little to no tension in what I feel like are supposed to be tense chases.

Taking on the Man

And when you get to the final segment of the game that’s serving as the climax, the boss fights (all three) are just outright bad. In one, you have to take on a fight, your health of (in my case) about 200 against someone with over 7,000. This is actually a fight you are scripted to lose, though you might not realize that at first. If you let the enemy crowd all the way up to you instead of moving around the small space like the game wants you to, the attacks happen but do not damage you. From there you can do little bits of chipping damage. It was only when I realized how tedious this was that I realized that I was likely meant to lose, so I moved around so the attacks could hit me to deliberately lose, which caused the story to progress. I would go back and find out what happens if you’re able to win using this oversight, but the game works only on autosave with no chapter select and I can’t bring myself to play the whole thing again just to find out.

The second fight turns into a JRPG style… sort of. Your only options are to “argue” or heal, with the third to do a summon coming up when you attack successfully by arguing enough times. The argument mechanic is interesting for a moment, in how the character you’re arguing against will say something and then you have to respond with the logical fallacy they’re using (dunning-kruger effect, strawman, red herring, ect.). While this would be cool if the game was about teaching you these ideas and then coming back to them, if they are mentioned, it’s a blink and you miss it moment that I didn’t retain. As such, I ended up relying on my own outside knowledge of these to get through this fight, and even with my team set for maximum attack, it took long enough that I saw some repetition…

And the third is the worst of them all, a chase sequence that’s not thrilling as you move a tuck left or right on the road to avoid some attacks. It’s boring on straightaways, but feels unfair when you turn any corner as hits feel unavoidable since the turn will put you right into the path of the attacks. There’s also no health bar or any indicator of how much damage you can take, which just made the three times I had to try this until I got it right by a fluke feel like a chore.

I can understand wanting to change things up for the climax of the game, but unfortunately, that might have been the wrong choice. I went from feeling fairly “meh” on the game to actively being annoyed, frustrated, and angry with it by the end, which I don’t think was a point in their favor. The game is short enough that they could have just kept with the main gameplay and while it would have been repetitive, they could have let the story carry the game on its shoulders instead of biting off more than they could chew.

Please Hold for Technical Issues

Part of the problem of biting off so much is that the game isn’t the most technically sound thing in the world. I had a few points where it was unstable to the point of causing me severe problems, which left a poor impression.

The first was when playing through a segment, the game crashed back to the main menu for seemingly no reason. It’s not as though I was doing anything intensive or taxing, but this game has very specific autosaves, meaning you can lose a lot of progress this way. In this crash, I was lucky to lose only a few minutes of progress. But later, when going to answer some questions in a terminal, when I realized I had entered something incorrectly, I chose to exit rather than enter my answers and the game glitched, leaving me unable to reenter the terminal. I had to reset from the start of the segment in order to be able to do it, which required blowing past quite a bit of dialog that I had already seen.

There was also a chase sequence where I was caught despite being far ahead of the enemies pursuing me. Upon doing so I was started back at the beginning, absolute swarmed by them while stood in place, which caused me to be reset again the second that I was released to move as I was immediately captured. The third time I was able to finish the sequence… only because the game had once again bugged and removed the enemies entirely. I am someone who is willing to overlook perhaps overlook a small bug now and then, but this was multiple occurrences that were either detrimental to gameplay or immersion breaking.

And the game couldn’t let me go without one more glitchy moment. Right at the end in one of the boss fights, the gameplay kept going for the boss fight while the cutscene chat happened, leading to the overlay of the boss fight persisting over the scene, cutting me off from reading dialog.

Crystal Clear Picture?

Visually, I can’t say that I am personally a far of what they went for here, but I also can’t say they weren’t doing what they set out to do well. The game itself is running a world of fairly simple and blocky characters and settings. They’re simply designed, but it’s also easy to tell everyone apart as well as they’re given clear visual signifiers. Then for a more detailed idea of the characters, when major characters are speaking, a static image of them pops up in the corner.

Where I personally don’t mesh with this style is in the way it’s visually presented beyond those elements. The whole game feels like some sort of a pixelation filter was put over it, turning these simple visuals into a bit more of a mess. With this over the top, it feels like what details the visuals did have get somewhat obscured. It’s one of those things where the choices made aren’t bad on their own, but they weren’t to my personal tastes was all.

That’s a Wrap

Overall, I find myself torn on this one. While the core there is average, there are a few tiny high points to consider, only for that to be dragged down by the bugs that I experienced while I was playing. It’s decent for being a small budget title, but if you’re looking for something substantial, you might want to look elsewhere. It really depends on your sense of humor. To be clear, I think the story does carry it, even if it’s not always to my taste, but the gameplay decisions and the technical shakiness around that story bring my opinion on the game down fairly significantly.

Pros

  • Decent character writing
  • Good humor if it suits your tastes
  • Off the rails and wacky storyline

Cons

  • Technical problems, including crashes
  • Gameplay that grows stale and repetitive
  • Gameplay shakeups that are less entertaining than the stale gameplay
  • Boss fight reliant on information players might not have a strong understanding of

Verdict
Local News with Cliff Rockslide is a game that bit off more than it can chew, unfortunately, a problem compounded by technical issues.

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