Are you old enough to remember the 1980s with any clarity? If so, have Pixel Trip Studios got a game for you! Based on the classic Paperboy and packing in more ‘80s references than you can shake a stick at, The VideoKid is a gloriously retro love letter to the culture of decades past. But is it also a good game? I pulled on my neon leg warmers and dived straight in.
Firing up and the scene is set for the story of the game. The main character, The VideoKid himself, has to meet his girlfriend Jessica in the park, but after losing track of time he discovers he has only five minutes left to complete his “video round”. Think of a paper round, but instead of delivering newspapers, Kid has to deliver VHS video cassettes (remember those?) while riding his skateboard, carefully throwing them across the street and into the post boxes of the relevant houses. Helpfully, the post boxes are red, making it easy to see where the videos are supposed to end up. Of course, you can hit other things too… there’s something to be said for nailing all three Care Bears with well timed video cassette throws, or for hitting the man painting his house so paint splashes everywhere!
The basic model of the VideoKid is an absolute dead ringer for Marty McFly in the first Back to the Future film, down to the body warmer and skateboard, and this is just the first of many nods to popular ‘80s culture. In just the first section of the first level, I picked references to the Care Bears, Fraggle Rock, Rambo, Lethal Weapon, Blues Brothers, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Baywatch and many many more. See, it’s not just the visuals that evoke the time period, as the various characters you meet also have something to say, whether it be the Fraggle Rock puppets singing an approximation of the theme tune, to Riggs and Murtagh from the Lethal Weapon films uttering their various catchphrases. Of course, running into any of these characters will knock VideoKid off his board and bring his run to an end, as will contact with any of the vehicles on the roads, or alligators in the sewers; even road cones will trip him up. This makes for a somewhat fraught run, as everything can stop you, and you need to have your wits about you to avoid the hazards, deliver the videos and meet your girl.
Graphically The VideoKid is beautiful, with a perfect pixelated style that just oozes charm and perfectly captures the spirit of the time. Pamela Anderson from Baywatch is presented in a fantastic pixel style, and the animation is such that as she jogs down the street, her *ahem* anatomy is moving about exactly as gravity would have it, if you catch my drift. The rag doll effect when the Kid comes off his skateboard is absolutely eye watering too, and being hit by a car leads to a crunching impact that you can’t help but wince at. Everything moves along silky smooth as well, and the controls are absolutely spot on, giving full control and confidence that you’ll be able to reach the end of the road.
Well, that’s what I thought anyway. You see, the style and setting is not the only thing that this game takes from the 1980s, as it also brings the difficulty from that time as well. Forget multiple lives, multiple difficulty levels, health bars and regenerating shields:in this game, you have one shot to make it to the end of the level, and if you don’t, then you are sent straight back to the start again. Any collision will see your run come to an end, and with traffic flowing both ways in the street and the pavements full of cultural references, just surviving and staying on the board is a challenge, never mind delivering the video cassettes.
Luckily, to help you out, there are various pickups to collect. One looks a lot like the old Nintendo Power Glove and lets you automatically throw videos for a short time, a pair of cool high top trainers lets you have a super jump, and there are many others. In addition, the streets are filled with money, whether it be coins or notes for the Kid to pick up. These coins, along with a fee for each video safely delivered, can be spent in the shop to unlock new skins and moves for the next run. There are skins based on Commando, Cookie Monster, Karate Kid and many more, and in what I can only assume is a cheeky way of getting around licensing considerations, the names are slightly changed, like The Biscuit Guzzler and Danielson. These are witty little touches that really fit in well with the whole tone of the game.
All in all and The VideoKid ticks all of my boxes for a great game. It’s a fond look back at a bygone age, with all the best references cherry picked and presented for your gaming pleasure. It’s a great looking, smooth running homage to Paperboy and the whole thing just works. If I’m being super critical, the gameplay isn’t the deepest ever and the story isn’t going to give Shakespeare any restless nights, but that’s missing the point. There’s as much pleasure in watching this game and spotting the references, as there is in controlling the Kid yourself.
If you were around in the 1980s, this will be an amazing trip down memory lane, but if you weren’t, give it a try and you’ll see why rose tinted glasses are so popular amongst us older folks!