As someone who has been part of game journalism for a little under 6 years, I didn’t think anything compelling could be found in Times & Galaxy, a point-and-click visual novel from Copychaser Games, that I didn’t already know about. Not only do I feel a little silly for thinking so, but I was also happy to be proven so wrong.
Set sometime in the far future, you step into the very large shoes of a robot. But not just any robot, you’re the very first Reporterbot – a robot who, if you haven’t figured it out, is a reporter. Before you do so, however, you first need to pick what you’ll look like, your make, and your pronouns. You can customize your paint job and choose your pronouns, but we weren’t available to change our model during the demo build. What I did appreciate during my time with the demo is that each robot design is just that: a robot. There’s no robot with oversexualized anatomy, just a genderless robot. It’s incredible how surprising that is to see in video games.
After you’ve developed your very own build-a-bot, that’s where the real fun begins. As the Times & Galaxy’s (a spaceship that also works as a newsroom) very first robot reporter, you’ve started at the bottom: an intern. But don’t worry, after introducing yourself to a few folks, you’re immediately thrown into the deep end by your boss, just like in real life! Instead of rushing around and taking coffee orders for everyone though, you’re thrust into a case: figure out what’s happening on the planet Aug.
Aug is a planet that isn’t too kind to robots of any kind. Most people would rather scrap you for parts than talk to you for a story, but if you’re going to prove yourself, then you’d best get stuck in.
As a reporter, you case the scene yourself. You talk to people, and thankfully there are plenty of folks who are willing to tell you what they know, but will it necessarily be the truth? That’s up to you to figure out. One of the things I enjoyed the most during the investigative sections of Times & Galaxy is how important it is to make sure each question count, because you only have a limited amount of options before the conversation between you and others ends. Depending on your choices, you can learn new things about each case, opening up new interactions, or miss things that could have affected your coverage. With my position as Editor, I so rarely get to do the reporting I used to do in the past, so I admit that putting things together and linking leads actually felt like coming home, shocking me with how much fun it was to do.
Outside of talking to people for cases, you also get to examine objects at the scene of the crime/event. When you examine these objects you’re taken to a gameplay segment where you search for clues. The closer your search is to finding something, the louder a sound plays, and your eye opens. These investigation segments, just like speaking to people, are vital to your exploring the multiple angles of your coverage.
Speaking of coverage, this brings me to, hands down, the best part of Times & Galaxy: planning your coverage. Reporterbot gets the luxury of choosing their headline, tags, text body, etc at a press of a button, which is really unfair, by the way, but that’s not the part that has me absolutely stoked to continue playing.
With each choice, object, etc, that you find, it goes into the metaphorical pot of directions you can take your coverage of the event. For example, are you going for a report that’s informative, straight to the point, and engaging, or would you rather stir the pot and publish something a bit more sensational that will attract more readers, but not particularly paint yourself (or the publication) in a graceful light. It’s entirely up to you.
No matter how you plan your coverage, your choice will have a ripple effect on your relationships with others in the newsroom. I didn’t get to see the full extent of this in the Times & Galaxy demo, but considering the variety of folk that are part of the newsroom, it wouldn’t surprise me if the relationships between you change depending on what you publish.
Times & Galaxy doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel of a point-and-click adventure, but it’s managed to grab me all the same by simply being charming in its presentation of a sci-fi newsroom. More importantly, it’s made me feel almost nostalgic for the days when I was starting in video game journalism, and never did I think I’d feel like that again. Cheers Reporterbot, you got a feeling from me.
Times & Galaxy is set to release on PC sometime in 2024. For now, you can grab the demo for yourself and give being a space journo robot a go.