News Tower Review – Extra, extra, read all about it

News Tower sees you take the role of newspaper publisher in mafia-ridden 1930s NYC.
News Tower advanced tower

As someone who works full-time as an editor, you’d think that I’d be slightly less inclined to play a game where the main functionality is to, well… work as an editor.

On an average day, I log out of my work account and close the lid of my laptop… only to take a beat, re-open the lid and log in to my personal account, so I can play games and mindlessly scroll through whatever takes my fancy. It’s rare that I think to myself, “Man, I wish I was still working in some capacity.”

But then came News Tower.

In this newspaper tycoon management sim, you play as the frenzied publisher of a 1930s newspaper. From sending reporters out on assignment and dealing with the mob, to maintaining the printing process and keeping your employees happy, your central objective is to ensure that the newspapers are printed and distributed on time each Sunday – and that the news never goes stale.

It’s the type of game that makes you want to don a newsboy hat, smudge your fingers with typewriter ink and start speaking in a Transatlantic accent, hollering, “Get me the story, see!”

Having released on Steam Early Access on 13 February, I’ve spent the better part of a week trying to maximise production both at my day job, and at my little virtual newspaper empire.

News Tower screenshot
Image: Sparrow Night / Twin Sails

Working it to the beat (reporter)

News Tower has all the kinds of mechanics, challenges and rewards you’d expect from a management sim. Hazards include broken down machinery, unhappy employees, the occasional lawsuit, and yes, even the mob paying you a visit. But while keeping my publishing house on the straight and narrow, I found myself focusing on the exact same thing I try to do in real life: cultivate and develop my reporters.

Slowly but surely I was helping my intrepid reporters hone their skills on their go-to beats. The money I earned from sales (and occasional mafia deals) went straight into hiring more reporters, and decorating their floor with skill-boosting equipment.

Eventually, I had a go-to beat reporter for all six of the main categories – Sports, Crime, Society, Economy, Entertainment and Politics – plus a couple of generalists who could pick up stories across the lot.

In News Tower, as in the real world, you’re only as good as your team. As the newspaper grows, so too does the amount of stories you’re expected to cover, the beats you need to hit, the duration of research, and the demands of the readers. By growing my team, I was able to keep up with those demands – and hire a few extra lawyers, because those crime reports can get a little dicey.

News Tower story search
Image: Sparrow Night / Twin Sails

An editor’s job is never done

Like many management sims, News Tower can be stressful. Media is fast-paced at the best of times, and the game certainly nails that. The countdown to print feels almost oppressive at times, so being selective with your stories and research is pivotal – if you fail to publish the type of stories required by each locale, it directly affects your bottom line. If there was anything that felt too real for me, it was that.

I found myself spiralling quickly during one game week, when I realised that none of my reporters were going to turn in stories in time. The week prior, I’d had a massive readership and bucketloads of cash coming in. That week, I published one headline and made less than I had during my first week of the paper. Recovery took time, strategic thinking, and a hefty loan from the bank as I figured out what went wrong.

While the game does provide a tutorial at the start, it could be clearer with its guidance and instructions – there are elements that feel intuitive, but others that I had to reread multiple times to parse. I also note that there were a couple of minor spelling errors that cropped up over the course of the game.

I passed the first few off as intentional, imagining they came from ‘inexperienced reporters’, but when they surfaced in other areas of the game, it became harder to give the benefit of the doubt. With an international team, these things happen, but rest assured, it won’t infringe on your enjoyment (unless you’re particularly Type A).

News Tower mobster event
Image: Sparrow Night / Twin Sails

With the exception of the occasional mafia request or mayoral decree, you’re largely on your own when new challenges arise. Scrambling back to prime position is tough – and the longer it takes, the deeper the hole you’re in. As with many management sims, this is where the real meat of the game lies.

When things are thriving and easy, it’s satisfying enough. But when you’re scrambling to hold grip on a struggling empire of papers and ink, there’s an edge – a frenzied drive that sees you do whatever it takes to get the news out. Perhaps, in the end, I’m too close to the story – after all, print deadlines and publishing scandals present a much scarier prospect to me than they might to others.

Hot off the press

Having sprawled my newspaper empire all over New York City, I am interested to see how the game builds on this as it moves from Early Access. Will the mafia prove too much for my security system? Will my lawyers drop the ball, resulting in a huge payout for a story gone wrong? Will my printing press room ever go below an obscenely high temperature? All of this remains to be seen.

News Tower gets a lot of things right, a sprinkle of things wrong, and there’s a few things I’m undecided on – but ultimately, it’s an entertaining enough way to spend an evening. I’m very attached to my reporting team now, having watched them develop and grow into bonafide little investigators.

With new factions, challenges, objects and stories on the horizon, I look forward to seeing how the game develops over the course of the next year.

Three stars: ★★★

News Tower
 PC, macOS
Developer: Sparrow Night
Publisher: Twin Sails Interactive
Release Date: 13 February 2024

The PC version of News Tower was provided for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are rated on a five-point scale.

Steph Panecasio is the Managing Editor of GamesHub. An award-winning culture and games journalist with an interest in all things spooky, she knows a lot about death but not enough about keeping her plants alive. Find her on all platforms as @StephPanecasio for ramblings about Lord of the Rings and her current WIP novel.