A few of you Poweteers might remember a little known PC game called MAD TV. In it, you played as a TV exec who competed against other execs for TV ratings, TV/Movie licensing deals, lucrative advertising contracts, and the affections of the lovely nature show producer on the top floor. Obviously it wasn’t based on the sketch comedy show of the same name (although they were both inspired by the same satire magazine). Although it received little fanfare, it was unique and fun. Years later, Realmforge and Kalypso Media released M.U.D TV (which stands for Mad, Ugly, Dirty Television), a game that is more than inspired by the classic title, although the developers claimed they never played it. Anyway, the game is just as fun as the game it apparently isn’t based on, even if the game gets a bit too difficult at times.

In M.U.D TV, you play as a TV station manager who competes with other stations for viewers and advertisement dollars. When the game starts, you’ll have so little money and resources that you’ll have to take pre-recorded TV shows from the lower level in order to attract viewers. You’ll be producing several genres of TV aimed at several demographics of viewers. As you fulfill advertisement contracts, you’ll gain enough money to build your own production facilities and hire employees so you can produce your own content and attract more viewers. You can even produce your own newsbytes to bring in more viewers. Sounds easy, but it gets very difficult. The advertisement contracts you see, have a small amount of days to attract a certain amount of viewers. Many times, it will have to be seen by a certain demographic. Before you take on a contract, you have to make sure you can pull in the required amount of viewers. Lots of times, you’ll take on a contract and will have to rearrange your schedule on a fly. You’ll constantly be running between offices gathering shows and contracts, and you also have the option for sabotaging the other players. It will take a lot of trial and error to get the hang of it, but it gets satisfying once you figure out the trends.

The game’s campaign mode tells the story of a guy named Max, who is both very intelligent and very evil. He comes up with a plan to use TV to brainwash the world’s population (a goal that wouldn’t be that hard to accomplish given what’s on TV these days). It serves as the game’s trial by fire, as it’s extremely difficult, even on the easy difficulty setting. The third mission requires me to run an ad 10 times and have it viewed by 3 million people each time within 10 days. You’ll find yourself restarting several times. The game also includes online multiplayer, but I don’t usually see a whole lot of people online. There are user content tools, but all they do is let you customize characters and name the shows and movies. The TV shows are represented by a looping 5 second clip. It would have been nice to edit them like in Lionhead’s The Movies.

As difficult as it is, M.U.D TV’s quirky style will keep you hooked, as long as you don’t throw your keyboard in frustration. If you think you can put on a better program than what’s on now (and it shouldn’t be too hard), then pick this up.