Sometimes it’s the simple things that can bring the most joy and frustration. Take PixelTrip’s The Videokid, an updated take on the 80’s classic Paperboy in which players had to avoid obstacles to deliver newspapers. The Videokid is itself set in the 80’s, maybe as part of the homage to that game, but instead of papers you’re throwing VHS tapes at people’s mailboxes, windows, heads…You get the idea.
The premise is simple: you need to meet Jessica at the park at 8am but it’s 7:55 and you still haven’t delivered the videos. So you jump on your trusty skateboard, your bag full of tapes, and roll along the streets. It sounds straightforward enough except at this time the morning all sorts of stuff seems to be going down in the neighbourhood, with events happening that make this a major 80’s crossover.
The gameplay is pretty simple. You have to switch between three lanes to avoid obstacles or jump over them if they’re low enough. While doing this you also need to throw tapes at pretty much everything, which means furiously tapping away at the throw button. This is what all those quick time events in Quantic Dreams games have prepared for you.
Keeping a steady stream of tapes flying racks up the points and cash. You can also rack up cash by collecting coins that are strewn across the lanes, but you need to watch out as that temptation can lead you to danger. The cash earned can then be used in the game store to unlock new trick sets and characters, though it’ll take a lot of time to unlock all of them/
You only have one life to get from home to Jessica, and everything in your path will end your run should you collide with it. Barring a few instances, nothing is actually aiming to take you down, but everything from the people to the cars is stronger than Videokid, no matter what. This is a game where practice is needed to learn the course, because for the same or similar events tend to occur at roughly the same points. If it was totally predictable then you’d be reaching the end in no time, but it isn’t. That time the Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine was being chased by a ghost in the middle lane and you hit it? Fine, avoid it next time. Except now Chucky is running down the pavement while the Mystery Machine is in the middle lane, and it’s too late to switch to the third lane. Game over.
The Videokid is frustrating, but it is so addictive, nailing the one more turn aspect of this kind of arcade experience. That isn’t to say it’s perfect. Now and again it can be tough to judge a jump because your isometric viewpoint makes a moving obstacle look like it’s much cleared a lane, but you’ll hit the tail end of it. When it comes to the power-ups the Super Jump seems a bit pointless because you’ll launch right over obstacles, including those you can grind the skateboard on to earn points.
The Videokid is a visual treat in its own right presenting a colourful world full of 80’s pop culture references. Part of the reason my attempts kept coming up short was that I was trying to spot the references, which includes things like Transformers, The Simpsons, Back To The Future, and Knightrider. The voxel art design really makes the vibrant environment pop, with most environmental pieces drawing the eye to them. The soundtrack is good too and interspersed with quotes from the pop culture references.
The Videokid is one of those arcade titles that can easily eat away at your time if you let. The simplistic but addictive gameplay means you’ll want to keep going back until you’ve beaten the course. Combine it with the colourful voxel art and the humour that permeates the game and you have a verified fun experience on your hands. The Videokid isn’t just an homage to Paperboy, it’s a successor.
Version tested: PS4 – Also available on PC, Switch, and Xbox One.