In this arcade game, which comes back from the future’s past, it’s Paperboy meets Skate or Die! Make your way through the neighbourhood and to the end of the street while delivering bootleg VHS tapes and dodging everything that comes your way. Mix in all the eighties references you can think of and you get The Videokid.
In “The Videokid” you’re a Marty McFly looking guy who is late for his date with his girlfriend Jessica. But, before you can meet her you have to to deliver all the pirated VHS tapes you have promised your trusty customers. So you grab your bag, Walkman and skateboard and off you go. The controls are simple: You accelerate automatically at a steady speed, and only change between three lanes by pushing left or right. Other than that you have two buttons, one to jump and one to throw the VHS tapes. It sounds easy, but just as with its spiritual grandfather it’s super tough to master.
In true arcade style you only have one try. If you get hit by anything then you crash and have to start from back at the beginning. On your way you score points by pulling off rad tricks and by trashing everything you hit with your VHS tapes. Luckily, unlike the original paperboy, you have a bag of infinite tapes and don’t have to restock on your way. It really takes a while to get used to the hitboxes of the characters and obstacles, what doesn’t help is that sometimes the combination of them is almost impossible to overcome.
The points are only relevant for achievements and the highscore board. However, you can also earn money by collecting coins and delivering tapes into the correct, red, mailboxes. If you’ve earned enough, you can unlock new outfits like Karate Kid, Wolfman or Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as some new skateboard tricks.
Playing the game basically comes in three phases. In phase one everything is new, you’re overwhelmed by what’s going on on the screen and you’re just trying to survive. In phase two you got the hang of it, you try to recognize all the new references thrown at you. It’s fun and a challenge at the same time. Then comes phase three, when you don’t even look at the references anymore. You’ve learned the parts of the lanes by heart because you replayed them so often. You’re calm and focused, until… you survive long enough to reach an unplayed part of the street and you immediately go back to phase one.
The Videokid is the perfect game for ‘in between’. Each try is usually about a minute long and after six or seven tries you stop and play something else. One reason is that it’s just an eighties references overload. It really fries your brain. Another reason is that the level set up stays more or less the same. The only thing that varies are the sort of skins of the moving obstacles. For example, there’s always a wooden bench at the exact same spot at beginning. But who’s on the bench rotates between 5 references, sometimes it’s a guy trying to make out with a girl, sometimes it’s Alvin & the Chipmunks and sometimes it’s the Fraggles. Instead of having different levels like the different days in Paperboy, you only get one long level that just gets harder and harder the further you progress.
To be fair, there are some small mechanics to mix things up. If you collect the powerglove item, you fire your VHS tapes automatically, so you can focus more on jumping, dodging and collecting money. The other item are the Nike Air sports shoes that let you jump really high. Both only last for a few seconds though.
If you reach a crossroad, sometimes the turtles will show up from below and force you into the sewers. Nothing comes at you down there but you have a lot of permanent obstacles in your way and have to change lanes at just the right moment. Sadly, there are only two variations of the sewers, so you know them by heart pretty soon, too.
The same goes for the music, which is only one — admittedly very cool — tune by DJ Savant. However, as most of the references have audio one liners that overlap, you don’t really get much out of the music. You can turn off the music and only have sound effects though, to listen to your own music while playing. Adding more songs and the option to turn off or at least turn down the effects would have been nice. This current way, everything gets annoying after a while.
At least you can switch the outfits of the Videokid a lot. Most of them are pretty affordable and it’s nice that they at least added one female skin (She-Ra). But it’s also the most expensive one and the commentator still refers to you as “he”. You only get to buy three new skateboard tricks which is also a bit of a let down.
The folks behind the game, Pixel Trip Studios, are a Bristol based games company that was founded in 2015 by animation director Adam Jeffcoat and creative producer Vincent Kamp. Both have been in the industry for a decade and together with game designer James Allsopp they focuses on developing games like the old arcade classics where playability was king.
They certainly succeeded with The Videokid. It’s fun and challenging, but it’s certainly no game to play for hours on end. It feels like a polished game jam game to me, maybe taking the eighties references a bit too far in quantity and intensity. Pixel Trip Studios are already working on their next game, but I really hope they consider adding some more content to The Videokid as well. New outfits, songs or even another level would certainly keep me interested.
The Videokid is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.