There’s not much I remember about the 80s seeing as I was born smack bang in the middle of it, but I did spend much of my childhood either playing games from the 80s or watching TV shows and movies from that period. Now, it’s been a very frustrating week for me. Chief among that frustration is the downing of my internet. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been surviving on 50kb broadband, yes, people in 1995 had better internet than I did these last few days. Fun times, right people? What’s kept me company during this time? The Videokid, that’s what.
After my three hour struggle to just connect to Xbox Live and set my Xbox as the Home Xbox needed in order to play each time my connection dropped, I booted up this nostalgia-ridden game. Let me tell you, The Videokid didn’t alleviate my frustrations. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game, but it’s shallow, in fact it’s puddle deep. Yet still, I couldn’t quite pull myself away from the game – constantly plugging in that proverbial one last attempt. However, for its very, very cheap price, you’re getting more than most games of this cost provide.
Booting up the game takes you to a (blink and you’ll miss it) short story introduction, one that sees the protagonist needing to make his way from one end of the street to the other in order to meet up with his girlfriend, Jessica. Along the way, you’ll be delivering video cassettes in true Paperboy fashion, lobbing them sideways into mail boxes as you maneuver the street on your skateboard in upward movement. First time playing The Videokid, the game gives you a basic feel for the controls; how to move, how to jump, what to avoid and so forth.
Players take on the role of someone that has a striking resemblance to Back to the Future’s Marty McFly, though, as progression is made, you’ll be able to invest in new player skins that pull from popular franchises of the 80s. Skins include the likes of Batman’s Joker, The Lost Boys’ Edgar Frog and many more. Of course, these skins don’t alter the gameplay to any degree outside of a cosmetic bump, but I’ll admit, it was cool being able to don some characters from my fond memories of the era. Players can also unlock a small range of tricks.
Though, again, these don’t alter much outside of some additional appearances – such as skateboard flipping. In any case, the meat of the matter is to reach Jessica and deliver as many tapes as possible in the process. Along the way you’ll collect currency via picking up coins and dollars, which is then spent on the aforementioned unlocks. Players can also score some points through performing grinds on benches, select vehicles and for hitting either their targets, or sending a cassette into the environmental structures and passerby’s, for varying income.
The game’s controls are as simple as they need to be. Movement to the left and the right can be achieved through either the left stick or the D-Pad, whereas jumping and lobbing cassettes is tethered to the face buttons. That’s the sum total of The Videokid’s control layout, and in fairness, it didn’t need to be any more complicated than that. Why? Because the game is tough. I’ve never been afraid to admit defeat, but here, I felt that much of my defeat was due to one of two problems; hit detection and unavoidable collisions. Though even so, I continued undeterred, mostly…
Starting each run at the bottom of each street, players will be immediately struck with heaps of nostalgic cameos, many of which will often hinder your progression. The game takes place on just a street-stretch in which the player can move between the sidewalk and both lanes in the road through the left and right toggle. There’s a few pick-ups here and there that will help you along the way. Though when you fail – and you will – you’re sent to the summary screen with the option to continue or spend your collected cash. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? How tough can moving up a single street be at the same time as avoiding obstacles along the way?
That was my mindset before I jumped into the fray. Each run doesn’t usually demand too much of your attention for the first minute or so, simple needing to avoid traffic cones and the occasional car, but the further up the street you get, more dangers make an appearance. I lost count at how many cameos pop up, but I appreciated their neat inclusions nevertheless. Whether it was Dr. Who being chased, Terminator blocking the street, the Ghostbusters trying to run me over or even the Inspector Gadget using his tech, there was always a nice nod on each attempt.
I wont lie, this novelty wears off a lot sooner than I thought it would, but for each new appearance, I felt compelled to see what more the game had to showcase – Care Bears to the side, of course. When you’re not moving out of the way of a cameo appearance or jumping over small structures, chances are you’ll be bobbing and weaving through traffic. The difficulty curve, as alluded to above, isn’t too strict for the first block or two. Though, once you’re a few blocks in, it takes a drastic and steep dive. You’ll focus less on delivering cassettes, and more on just staying alive.
That in itself isn’t a major problem, but when you’re greeted with deaths that are just out of your control, it cheapens the experience. Take, for example, moving left or right of a simple traffic cone. Several times did I do this when I clearly had enough space to make the move, only for the game to register a hit. Whenever you do get hit, it’s an instant game-over. The camera will also zoom in on your mistake to highlight your shortcomings and to my surprise, I saw that I was indeed clear of the cone to begin with – albeit by a small margin, but clear of it all the same.
Moments like this are peppered throughout the entirety of the game and when we take into account the game’s insta-death feature, it can make for a very bitter end to each run. Picture Splinter (TMNT) stick-slamming you for no reason whatsoever other than playing the game as intended. Still, when all is said and done, the game’s cheap cost is worth the investment if you’re looking for something to fill the time whilst you wait for something bigger and better to install. The Videokid is indeed fun in small doses, but that’s as far as the fun will stretch. It’s a game of reflex, endurance and skill, nothing more and nothing less, and on that note, it’s been well developed and well designed to encourage repeat attempts.
The game sports a voxel design, not too dissimilar to the likes of I Hate Running Backwards. There’s roughly two-three hours of content to soak up before you’ve gained enough to buy everything on offer, which sits nicely inline with the price tag. Hell, even for the sake of just seeing every reference from my childhood squeezed into one game is worth the price of admission alone. I cant quite commend the soundtrack nor the audio cues, given that it began to annoy more than it did entice me, but it does the trick regardless and injects a degree of personality. The bottom line in all of this is that The Videokid achieves most of what it sets out to accomplish. If you’re a fan of 80s pop culture and enjoyed Paperboy, you’ll enjoy what’s on offer here.
The Videokid is a simple yet competent take on Paperboy’s core design, complete with shed loads of cameos and references from the 80s and early 90s. The gameplay loop can indeed become frustrating when errors occur outside of player control, grouped with its steep difficulty curve, but for the most part, this is a well developed experience that achieves much of what it sets out to accomplish.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.