GAME REVIEW | "Small Radios Big Televisions” Provokes Larger Emotions
Let me ask you readers something: have you ever walked the streets of your town with either an iPod or Walkman plugged in your ears? If so, has your mind ever built upon imagery that pops up amongst your surroundings to the music blaring in your headphones? Does it feel real, even though you know it's just your imagination playing around with the world around you and the world that you've built in your brain?
I ask all this because that's what exactly FIRE FACE's Small Radios Big Televisions has presented in game form. A short indie adventure published by [adult swim games], you find yourself roaming through old factories, collecting cassette tapes, and traversing through the worlds that these tapes transport you to in order to find these strange green rocks that helps to open certain doors and lead you to new areas. Throughout the levels, you'll also be tasked to solve puzzles involving gears, water, and plant life in order to seek new ways of finding a way to the next section of these mysterious landscapes.
Through the tapes, you'll be brought to worlds of beauty and wonder. These mighty mountaintops, orange forests, calming streams, and fast roads will easily take your breath away, but it's when you magnetize the tapes in certain areas when things get rather uneasy. Soon, the gorgeousness transforms into the things of nightmares and bad acid trips, as if one is bearing witness to world slowly crumbling into madness.
I'll admit that there was a lot about Small Radios Big Televisions that confused me. There were no concrete reasons for why I was looking in these abandoned factories, nor was there any explanation of why these tapes I found transported me to these weird worlds. But the deeper I went into this strange adventure, the more I began to understand the mentality that this game presents. This is the [adult swim] that wants you to think, not the one that has you turn your brain off late in the night.
As I dug deeper and visited these worlds, I began to ponder about its representation. The moments in-between where two people are talking about the reasons for the factories and tapes felt often like a Neo/Morpheus discussion, one that felt more straightforward and lacking the usual philosophical mumbo jumbo that often made those two characters sound too pretentious. When I looked around the realms of the magnetized tapes, I couldn't help but think about mortality and what may follow when our time on this earth of ours is up.
Needless to say, Small Radios Big Televisions makes you look at the world around you in ways you never thought possible. Yes, it is merely an artsy video game, but its means of taking your mind towards some pretty deep philosophical perspectives is something that others have tried and failed to accomplish. I wouldn't call this game a religious experience per se, but it's hard to walk away from FIRE FACE's creation and not have an appreciation for what's around you just a bit more.
Perhaps the most outstanding thing about this game is its soundtrack. Composed by Owen Deery (who also did most of the work on this game), the score calls back to old-school educational science videos from the 70s/80s, meshed with a post-modern chiptune mentality. When the worlds you traverse get weirder, so does the music, and when it does, it adds another layer of audibly horrific beauty that fits perfectly with your surroundings. (Be sure to check out the soundtrack on Deery's Bandcamp page.)
Granted, Small Radios Big Televisions isn't completely perfect. During my play-through, I noticed some framerate drops while in the world of cassettes, to the point where movement had slowed down to a crawl. Using the PS4 DualShocker, highlighting areas and grabbing hold of items to initiate actions can be a little tricky. In later levels, I found myself accidentally leaving rooms and messing up on puzzles because the cursor on the control stick wasn't reaching the thing I was attempting to grab.
Although the game lasts just a couple hours, Small Radios Big Televisions is worth exploring. Once completed, you can revisit all the abandoned factories and attempt to find anything you didn't come across the first time around. Oh, and prepare yourself for probably the most psychedelic and visually stunning ending since FEZ.
- Very thought-provoking
- Beautiful visuals
- Memorable soundtrack
- Some framerate drops
- Minor control issues
Small Radios Big Televisions may not give you all the answers in the long run, but this truth-seeking journey is worth taking every step of the way. It may get a little weird and trippy at times, but it's those moments that will not only question your rationality within the game, but outside in the real-world, as well. This is one indie game that transcends the usual gameplay motif, and Small Radios Big Televisions seeks to stand out as one of the year's most memorable experiences.
Promotional consideration provided by Evolve PR. Reviewed on the PS4.