Need to Know is a surveillance thriller set in America amidst terrorist threats, cults, murders and, of course, corrupt government organisations. It’s hard and heavy on real world influences, for sure. If you’re a Kickstarter fan then you may well have heard of the game already with a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign and 4,451 backers!
Going in to Need to Know, I was a little apprehensive. I’m a person with tape over my webcam and refuse to use voice activated commands (Back OFF, Siri!). This is mostly because web surveillance is a topic that makes me really anxious. Not for any particular reason mind you, if you hacked my computer all you’d see is a depressing amount of hours logged to Stardew Valley.
Once I was in however, I was hooked, hard. The gameplay is simple and engaging. It’s pretty much all point and click, with one or two timed challenges. The puzzles are based on your ability to find and interpret evidence, and answer questions in the assessment brief about people. Are they safe? Are they a threat to others around them? It’s up to you.
Narrative wise, Need to Know raises a lot of important social questions. How cautious should we be online? If someone taps our emails, are we safe? What role does the government play in internet surveillance? If given the opportunity, would you be complicit in it, or would you fight against it? It also subtly raises issues not as apparent, such as toxic online culture, how easy it is to assume a different personality online, and how much of our life is in our phones.
I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, because I think it’s definitely worth your time to experience the narrative yourself. But set your expectations for Mr. Robot meets Papers, Please. Except, instead of fighting the corrupt surveillance state… well, you are the corrupt surveillance state.
It’s an interesting take on a hot topic, and it really pays off. I felt gross but also… curious, sneaking through people’s browser history. Sure, I was invading their privacy, but I was also having a giggle at their weird texting conversations. It was almost perverse in nature. Of course, it’s not all giggles, and it does touch on harder subjects, like tracking down murderers and cult leaders. I’m up to about 22 hours played, and I have no idea where that time went. It’s gripping and well balanced, and it keeps you coming back for more.
Need to Know released on the 29th of August, and any critique of the UI/tutorial was instantly fixed. The team at Monomyth Games are extremely responsive to their player base, and all issues I initially had with confusion were fixed in the first, second, and third patches. It was really nice to finish one play session, only to sit down to the next one and find the bug or oddity that had thrown me off previously had already been fixed. So if you’re having issues, or bugs, just let them know! There’s a good chance you’ll get to help improve this indie gem.
And of course, huge shout out to Aussie game studios doing great things. That’s right, Monomyth Games is based in Adelaide Australia. So if you’re looking to support some more Australian game studios, check out their Twitter, check out the official website to learn more, or grab it on Steam!