Friday, August 31

Review: The VideoKid [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One advantage of being an “elder gamer” is that I got to see arcade titles that broke new ground and did things for the very first time, sometimes with very unique control schemes. One such title I loved was the classic Paperboy, which even had a set of handlebars on the unit that you used to steer. Aside from the controls my favorite element was how you’d try to deliver to subscribers to keep them happy but then for anyone who wasn’t a subscriber the goal was to simply wreck their house however you could. One look at The VideoKid, with its cute voxel art, quickly brought the memories of that arcade classic forward… but though there are some similarities unfortunately they’re limited and the game suffers from the comparison.


In truth the best way to approach this is as a mobile game, sharing something in common with the likes of Crossy Road and its ilk. In that perspective the more simple singular goal of getting to your girlfriend, this being a one-hit-and-you’re-done experience, the very microtransaction-feeling unlockables, and the shallow interpretation of Paperboy’s ideas make a bit more sense. There’s not much room for nuance here, and that’s true from both a gameplay and pop culture standpoint, as in order to help compensate for the middling action the game is awash in 80s pop culture references. Certainly, for people who grew up with these things there are some great “Hey, I know what that’s from” moments, but since these sorts of things in retro titles have become pretty commonplace they can also feel like a crutch.


While I wouldn’t imply that something having a “mobile feel” is inherently bad I use the description to quickly convey some of the game’s issues. There’s no free movement here, you’re pretty well restricted to movement in 3 lanes. This does simplify things a bit, and could even be a positive, but the associated issue is that your character isn’t quite as maneuverable as I’d like. Since you’re not on a bike, but instead of a skateboard, you do have the ability to jump and it’s a crucial element given the obstacles you face. However, it’s pretty stilted and you’re not able to control yourself in the air to switch lanes, inevitably leading to mistakes. For Paperboy fans perhaps the biggest disappointment is that you’re able to spam the videos you throw, and the goal is just to hit everything, completely removing the subscriber nuance from the original, which is a shame.


When reviewing titles I always attempt to make it more about what the game is trying to be than what I wish it was but in the case of The VideoKid its inspirations are so obvious that it’s tough for me not to at least make comparisons. Mentally removing Paperboy from my mind this is a reasonably good arcade-style game that may end abruptly but is well-suited to quick sessions and is lovingly dipped in nostalgia with some “deep cut” references. However, keeping that classic in mind I find it hard not to get distracted by what’s been lost in translation. If you have no idea what Paperboy is, you’ll probably get some satisfaction, but if you’re a fan and were hoping this would rekindle that old flame just understand that there are some major caveats but some of its spirit is still present.

Score: 7

Pros:
  • Well-suited to pick-up-and-put-down play
  • An abundance of 80s pop culture references, including some deep cuts like the family Truckster complete with a still-alive Dinky in tow
  • Some fun to be had knocking over said characters and generally wrecking everything you see

Cons:
  • If you’re hoping for Paperboy reincarnated you’ll be disappointed
  • The 3-lane movement simplifies things but also restricts your ability to save yourself from mistakes
  • Nuance in which houses you only deliver to and which you’re free to destroy has been lost in translation