I’m a big fan of the emergent phenomenon of 80’s hyper-parody in entertainment. We’ve seen a few quite prolific examples in the past decade, most notably Ubisoft Montreal’s Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and David Sandberg’s Kung Fury. Staples of the genre include synthwave soundtracks reminiscent of classic action/sci-fi movies, flagrant references to pop culture and fads of the era, and deliberate aesthetic impurities reflective of the technology at the time, like artificial CRT bevelling and scanlines.

The Videokid fits very snugly into that trend. At it’s core, it’s an endless runner heavily inspired by Paperboy, a popular arcade/NES game released in 1985. But it’s aesthetics, sound design and charm make it much more than that. You are the Videokid, and you must skate your way to the park in time to meet your girlfriend Jessica. On the way, you must complete your pirate video delivery round, all while performing gnarly skateboard tricks and avoiding getting busted by the cops.

The first thing that struck me about The Videokid is how bloody hard the game is. Not to its detriment; this difficulty is often associated with arcade classics, and it doesn’t make the game particularly unplayable; you just need to fail and fail again until you master both the controls and the ways of surpassing each variety of obstacle that you encounter. Cars can be grinded on, but not police cars, as you smash your face right into their roof-mounted megaphones. Potholes are too large to jump over, and so must instead be dodged. You need to get the timing right on throwing a videotape in order to successfully land it in a postbox. The list goes on.

The obstacles you encounter and the clients you deliver to are a vast collection of toys, shows, musicians and other popular culture icons of the 1980’s. The Ducktales cast driving around the suburbs, Alvin and the Chipmunks hanging out on a sidewalk bench, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles emerging from sewage grates, and so on. This had the potential to both clutter the screen and induce some much-undesired cringe. While the former certainly occurs, it isn’t overwhelmingly-so, and Pixel Trip Studios have managed to successfully avoid the latter.

I’m usually not a fan of the fusion of 3D graphics and the pixel art aesthetic, and games like Crossy Road don’t look particularly appealing to me. I don’t know what The Videokid does differently, but I don’t find myself disliking its implementation of that visual style at all, in fact I rather like it. It’s possible that it’s down to the theme of the game matching that look, though Crossy Road’s inspiration drawn from Frogger would fit that justification too, so it’s entirely likely that there are subtle differences that make it more comforting to look at.

The music was produced by Savant, a well-known and quite popular DJ. I’m quite a fan of his work, and much like the rest of his music, the soundtrack for The Videokid is catchy, energetic, and interlaced liberally with chiptune samples. The rest of the sound design is quite effective; it has potential to overwhelm the senses, but it almost feels like deliberate clutter that makes me feel like I’m actually sitting in an arcade playing the game, with the chaotic droning of other cabinets leaking their sound into my periphery.

The Videokid offers two primary incentives for progression; one is using money earned by delivering videotapes to purchase different costumes and additional skateboard tricks. They may only be aesthetic changes, but I can’t help but grind for cash so I can deliver videotapes as the cookie monster, though I will say the game better suits bursts of game time over long sessions, so this is something that will take a while.

The second incentive for progression is The Videokid Challenge. The first 25 people to beat the game (as it does have an ending despite it’s endless runner-esque gameplay) will have their high scores displayed in an arcade cabinet leaderboard on the website for the game. This is a cute little gimmick, and it’s limited nature is a bid to get more people to play the game, but it feels lacking. I’d much prefer a regularly-updated leaderboard to view, as that adds a reason to keep coming back, and its presence on a website rather than in the game itself works against its attempt at garnering interest. I also feel the game suffers a great deal from the lack of any local or Steam friends list leaderboards, as this would encourage players, including myself, to recommend the game to others.

I’m enjoying my time with The Videokid, and I shall likely continue to play it for a while. My only hope is that the varieties of leaderboards suggested above get implemented at some point down the line, as it’d improve the replayability for me.

Steam Link || $3.99/£2.99/€3.49 (10% off until Feb. 7)

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Editor-in-chief

Astrid is the equivalent of Lenin if Indie Haven were the Bolshevik Party. But it's not, she's just the Editor-in-Chief. When she's not mashing Communism into video games and writing about how it makes sense on her personal website, they're manning the ship here, as well as writing news, reviews, and features all about the indie games industry.

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  • MM

    2 much awesomeness…

  • Louis

    You know, after a certain point, I’m just getting bored of these 80’s throwback titles. They sort of blend together after a while, with very little to define them as their own thing. Kung Fury at least just referenced the common themes of the 80’s for the most part, but a game like this just works off of references and direct parodies. For someone who wasn’t alive to experience VHS tapes, or the Power Glove, or The Karate Kid, what’s here to appeal to them?

    • New games are pretty derivative and not very good anyway. What I find strange is I’m beginning to appreciate 8-bit games more than their 16-bit counterparts, in visual terms. I grew up on both. But I’m beginning to think that 8-bit Final Fantasy is overall much more visually appealing than 16-bit Final Fantasy. I think that goes to show that at some point the technology isn’t important. It’s a ruse.

      Most games today are visually a hot mess straight out of the box. It’s just a very strange landscape. To limit your intake to only the present you are living in is bad for any medium, but for video games it seems especially bad. (And I don’t even go for 2D games really. I’m much more stuck in the PlayStation era trappings wise.)

      • MM

        > It’s a ruse.

        Like what the vocalizer did for bad singers? : )

        I believe creativity flourishes best under the right set of limitations. Too much (limitation) and you starve it (or transform it in engineering, having not much more than 1 right way to do it) but, too little, and the energy is diffused among too many options.

        • Well that’s true about the creative process. Or it’s broadly true for mere mortals.

          The music industry is a strange beast though. I found out Morrissey made a website last week. Here ( http://true-to-you.net/morrissey_news_160227_01 ) is a take down of the music industry, that you may take with a grain of salt, because Morrissey or his crew tricked me into watching an Infowars video.

          • MM

            On-topic: I was referring to the limitations of 8-bits > 16 > 32 … I even prefer 2D, except for lighting effects.

            Off-topic: (and I guess we can end here, if you prefer) Alex Jones can be quite amusing tho : ) But it gets old after a while. (but don’t most things?)

          • The video isn’t Alex Jones (opportunist clown.) It just flashes an infowars.com logo in the end.

          • MM

            hehe yes..
            Just to clarify b4 we close this: the guy is a frequent (perhaps his eventual heir? :)) feature of Infowars, which in turn is owned by Alex. You spoke of Infowars in general, so I spoke about the main character there. (perhaps defending it, as a form of entertainment, I don’t know)

  • Арсений

    Hi. Tried contast to tips@ email but it doesn’t worked saying No Such User Here”.
    Would like to ask to check our game Orbox C on Steam and maybe review it.

  • This made me think of Paperboy but also an other game that I thought might be a more apt comparison, that I couldn’t put my finger on.

    I thought Skate or Die? No. Did some searches. Oh! California Games, yeah I remember that, but still no. Finally after probably 5 minutes of convincing myself there was another game I found it: Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (and with a name like that, it’s no surprise I couldn’t remember it. But this is the superior game. It looms like an 8-bit classic in my fuzzy old mind.)

    They just don’t make them like they used to.