The story in The VideoKid essentially amounts to you are a teenager who needs to make his video deliveries so he can meet his girlfriend at the park. However, you are not here for the story.
The VideoKid is essentially Paperboy with an overabundance of 80’s references.
The VideoKid immediately stood out to me thanks to how similar it was in terms of gameplay to the original Paperboy. Your goal is to press the B button to attempt to throw video tapes into red mailboxes. You ride on a skateboard down what essentially amounts to three lanes. You can move to a different lane simply by tapping the left or right button. Obstacles will appear in front of you some of which can be jumped on while others must be avoided. Many of these obstacles are randomly generated while others will always appear in the same place. You can safely jump on most vehicles, but you will always want to avoid running into or attempting to jump on living characters. This will always result in an immediate death and a restart to the beginning of the game’s only level.
Quickly, you will learn what types of vehicles you can and cannot jump on. If it is a vehicle with a flat top, then it will be safe. Any part of a vehicle that is flat will be safe to jump on as well. Jumping on it allows you to do a trick that will usually happen at random. These don’t accrue any extra points for you and are simply for flair. Pressing left or right at the moment you land will result in you jumping into another lane. This allows you to combo onto other jumping points for increased points.
Sometimes The Game Teaches You To Do Something Then Kills You For It Later
Don’t always trust what the game teaches you to do.
One of the early vehicles you will often encounter are taxis. These have the black taxi sign on the top of the roof. These are safe for you to jump on. The problem here is that it teaches you early on that jumping onto vehicles with objects on the top is okay. However, once you try to jump on the roof of a cop car or a jeep with floodlights, you will quickly find yourself restarting the game. This is one example of how the game teaches you one thing then later on turns what it taught you on its head for an unexpected death.
The most egregious example of this the first time you find yourself riding on the long stretch of road without houses. There are several coins lining the road. On this road, they will always be in the same place. By following the coins precisely, the cop car that suddenly drives in out of nowhere from behind you will miss you consistently. However, if you follow the coins on the second long stretch of road like the game taught you to do here, a cop car will come from behind and kill you every single time. This goes against one of the basic tenants of game design which is to teach your players how to overcome obstacles then build on it. Not teach them to do something then punish them later for having paid attention.
The Game Punishes You And Rewards You For the Wrong Things
As was just mentioned, you are frequently punished for learning what the game teaches you early on, but that isn’t the only issue here. While you are punished for things you should be rewarded for, you are also rewarded for things you should be punished for. In this game, there is absolutely no reason to avoid hammering on the B-button to rapidly throw video tapes at random. There is no punishment for this whatsoever, and you are instead just rewarded. Hitting other things walking by you on the roads doesn’t usually result in anything chasing you in any meaningful way and breaking windows to the houses of your subscribers actually just yields you extra money instead of taking it away. There is no reason whatsoever to try and skillfully time your throws of the tapes. You simply act like you have an equivalent to Santa’s Bag of video tapes and toss them blissfully.
Unfair Deaths Abound Artificially Lengthening The Game
Be careful because death can come out of nowhere.
There will be some times that the randomly spawned enemies will be placed in just such a way that by the time they appear on the screen, you will be trapped. You’ll have no way to avoid them because obstacles will be on both your sides and the one in front of you can’t be jumped on. This happens as a result of the camera being zoomed in a little too close to your character, so you just don’t know when something like that is coming. This issue could have been mitigated by having the camera set a little further away from the protagonist or at least by giving the player the option to do set it like this.
Additionally, there are many times that you will find enemies come at you very quickly and unexpectedly. These usually happen in ways that are unavoidable unless you are in the correct lane or hit a switch at the right time. The first or even first couple times you find these, you will very likely die. These deaths don’t feel fair at all, and it just ends up causing frustration as there isn’t anything you can do about them unless you know where they will be coming from. The bright side is most of them will always be set at the same place or will happen from a pool of random events in that same location. After an instance or two of dying there, you will be able to predict and avoid them. However, your first time through, it just takes you out of the experience because there wasn’t anything you could do unless you were in the right place at the right time. It feels like the only purpose to this is to force players to restart and thus keeps them playing. Instead of rewarding players for reacting quickly to something they are provided proper warning about, most of these just end up becoming trial and error affairs which can quickly grind on one’s nerves. It really hampered the enjoyment I got out of the game.
A Single-Level Roguelite-Type Experience
The idea behind this game is that it is a challenge for players to beat. Perhaps with the same philosophy as a roguelite. After all, you start from the beginning after you die and have newly placed enemies to maneuver around. Some will be set in the same locations to give it some level of predictability. It is like a roguelite since you accrue money that can be spent on acquiring new tricks and outfits from the shop. If you die, as previously mentioned, you start over. This may appeal to some, but I personally found it frustrating. I would have enjoyed it far more if there had instead been five levels that were half the length of the current one for the sake of variety and a sense of progression. That is just my opinion and will naturally not be shared particularly by lovers of the roguelite genre.
The music is fairly decent and suits the game for what it is. The music plays along at a brisk pace that keeps you involved. There is only one stage, so more songs than the three I heard here were not necessarily needed. You can hear two of them by watching the videos above. They are retro-synth songs which feel right at home in a game set in the 80’s. With that said, more songs would have added some much needed variety to this game.
In terms of voices, you will be bombarded with synthesized phrases referring to characters or the common vernacular of the time. It fits here, but it eventually becomes unpleasant to hear repeatedly. Having an option to turn off the voices would have been greatly appreciated.
Visuals and Performance
All the character models have a blocky, almost Lego design, and they are visually distinct. It is clear immediately upon looking at them who each one is meant to represent. One of the strong points of the game is the art direction taken here.
It seems like the developers felt a need to squeeze every single pop culture reference from the 80’s as possible into a single stage, and this results in it being visually chaotic. A variety of characters will bombard you at almost all times, and it comes off feeling forced especially later on. I’m willing to forgive it for its eclectic nature as the concept behind the game is that you are delivering movies. It is only natural in a nostalgia-driven game that that almost every one of the characters you encounter would be derived from those same movies. Still, dialing it back a little with some more original characters interspersed between would have made the movie characters stand out better and feel more significant.
The references to the 80’s aren’t limited to the enemies as you are able to buy skins for your character which gives him/her a design inspired by characters who originated then or at least were popular then. Ranging from The Karate Kid to The Joker, you really have quite a variety of characters to choose from, and all of them come with their own sound effects. None of them affect your stats, so they are just cosmetic changes.
There were not too many technical issues. I did not experience the game crashing on me. The controllable character had some strange physics which would sometimes happen after death, but they did not affect me during normal gameplay except during one instance which did result in my death.
The VideoKid does not take much advantage of the unique offerings of the Nintendo Switch hardware. There was no use of HD rumble here nor touchscreen functionality in handheld mode. However, to give credit where it is due, the game does support the video capture function which is always appreciated!
I found the value of The VideoKid to be questionable. The game only costs $5, but it just doesn’t feel like it has enough content because there is only a single stage which requires a massive amount of trial and error. It can also be beaten in just a couple minutes after you have learned to navigate it which doesn’t help matters. There will be value in this for you if you are looking for a trip back to the 80’s or to play a game similar to Paperboy. Otherwise, there isn’t going to be much here for you that’s worth your hard-earned $5.
Frequent Cheap Deaths
Just One Level