Before the world wanted to be insta-famous or an influencer on social media, there was public access TV. It was a way to showcase yourself and your interests in a quirky environment, a little bit more rough and ready than today’s filters and photoshopping. Salamander County Public Television is a surreal pastiche on public access TV that’s funny, charming, layered and a whole lot of fun.

You are the newest employee at Salamander County Public Television, the local public access TV station owned by a media conglomerate. That may sound oxymoronic – and you’d be right – but is par for the course in Salamander County Public Television. Not much of it makes sense at all, in the best way possible.

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Of course, you only need to glance at Salamander County Public Television to know that things are a little bit off-kilter here. There is very little in the way of actual graphics, at least in the traditional sense. Most of the game has been created with stock images, down to the characters you interact with and the various advertisements on the channel. It is certainly an odd choice, but it is very in keeping with the rest of the game’s odd choices.

Salamander County Public Television is a collection of minigames housed in with a visual novel sort of story. At the start of each new day, you and your colleagues converge on the work instant messenger channel to discuss what they will film today. The only issue here is that the residents of Salamander County have all mysteriously disappeared.

But, as the age old saying goes, “The show must go on”. Even though the residents of Salamander County have all disappeared, the station needs to keep up with its output, else it will be shut down. This is where the minigames come in, as these are the programmes. You may not think picking the word ‘beans’ out of a choice of two, or watching a dog retrieve a ball in a box of polystyrene nuggets using only its tongue is entertainment, but this is public television after all.

There are twenty-five minigames in total, with twenty-three of these required for the main story. Each day begins with a brief catch up with the few members of staff still working for the studio, but these quickly dissolve into random chatter as far away from the starting point. As a regular user of group chats, this is 100% relatable though. Sometimes other characters will pop in to help progress the story, which itself goes places. A seemingly innocent mouse introduced in one of the crazier minigames somehow ends up stealing the show. That might be a minor spoiler, but you still will not have a clue as to where this little story ends up going.

Whilst this is a fun distraction, the real meat of Salamander County Public Television are the minigames. If you have ever played the WarioWare games, their surrealness and stylings feel very much an inspiration. However, the minigames here are longer, and the more you play them, the more you realise how layered they can be.

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Each minigame has bronze, silver and gold scores to try and beat, along with a bonus objective that allows you to play each one a little differently in order to achieve it.

They range from the simple such as stacking burger ingredients on top of one another to produce the highest stack (Burger Building Bonanza), or trying to inflate a balloon animal to the required length (Properly Inflating Balloon Animals 101), right up to scoring a basket when the basketball hoop is the moveable object rather than the ball (Shooting Hoops) and trying to drop a plug into the socket round the back of the sofa (The Joy of Plugging It In). But, for all their irreverence, there is some depth to them.

Take Burger Building Bonanza for example. You will need to line up items such as lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and of course patties to construct the biggest burger possible. Each ingredient has a different size and structure, meaning you could play it a bit strategically. The cheese slices lend themselves to almost like a platform; you could off centre them and retain most of the structure. Providing you don’t have a run of patties afterwards – as each ingredient is randomised as to what would appear next – acting like battering rams to those foods below them.

These are only the minigames in the first ten or fifteen, ie the ones tied to achievements. For the full 1000G you only need to play up to Pineapples Suck, a minigame where you are using a vacuum to suck pineapple pieces off a pizza. But you are missing out on so much if you do play that way.

Later minigames include picking the word ‘beans’ from a choice of two. It sounds simple but a very short timer ramps the tension up quickly. Then there is Brevoortia Water Balloon, a Pong-esque 1 vs 1 battle between two fish trying to stop a water balloon popping on their side of the screen. It should be an Olympic sport.

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Not all of them work however, one in particular includes a rocket powered skateboard that is just too fiddly, even for Salamander County Public Television. But if you find yourself struggling, you can skip that minigame for the next one. Complete them all and the story and you can replay them all to your heart’s content as well as two bonus ones.

Each minigame in Salamander County Public Television offers something unique and I could wax lyrical about the vast majority of them. But there is also something to be gained by going into each one blind, and not knowing what is coming next, as you will never see it coming anyways – even with a million guesses. I’ve probably mentioned too many here already but just one more: If Mitosis Bowling got a release on smartphones, it would be the next Candy Crush. Utterly addictive.

With totally wacky minigames, a stock photo overdose and a suitably surreal story, Salamander County Public Television may not be for everyone. But if irreverence and things way outside the box are your thing, this is a fantastic indie game you will be playing long after you have solved the mystery of the missing residents. It lends itself well to local competitive play, mostly as there is a minigame for everyone as you whittle away hours trying to best highscores. Stick around for the advertisements in between each day too; you will not be disappointed.

Salamander County Public Television brings a good time from the Xbox Store

Before the world wanted to be insta-famous or an influencer on social media, there was public access TV. It was a way to showcase yourself and your interests in a quirky environment, a little bit more rough and ready than today’s filters and photoshopping. Salamander County Public Television is a surreal pastiche on public access TV that’s funny, charming, layered and a whole lot of fun. You are the newest employee at Salamander County Public Television, the local public access TV station owned by a media conglomerate. That may sound oxymoronic – and you’d be right – but is par…

Pros:

  • Surreal and irreverent
  • Story keeps you engaged between minigames
  • Almost every minigame is a lot of fun

Cons:

  • One or two minigames are a bit of a struggle
  • I just want a bit more of it

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Penguin Pop Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5
  • Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 12 January 2023
  • Launch price from - £6.69
TXH Score

4/5

Pros:

  • Surreal and irreverent
  • Story keeps you engaged between minigames
  • Almost every minigame is a lot of fun

Cons:

  • One or two minigames are a bit of a struggle
  • I just want a bit more of it

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Penguin Pop Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5
  • Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 12 January 2023
  • Launch price from - £6.69

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