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The VideoKid (Switch) artwork

The VideoKid (Switch) review

"The Paperboy clone you didn't realize you desperately wanted... except not as good as it should have been."

The VideoKid is a retro throwback to a period in time that was quite formative for me: the late 80s and early 90s. That era apparently meant something to a lot of people who still play video games, because otherwise I'm not sure how anyone could justify building a whole game around that particular nostalgia.

To be fair, it's not much of a game. The VideoKid consists of one (admittedly quite extended) level, with a lot of repeated assets to admire along the way. As in Paperboy, the perspective is isometric. You skate (rather than pedal) down a lengthy street, tossing your precious cargo at houses and pedestrians and such you encounter along the way. If you can reach the end, you have the promise of a date with your girlfriend. But you probably won't get there, not anytime soon and maybe not ever.

The VideoKid (Switch) image

In Paperboy on the NES and in arcades, you could steer your bike all over the place. You could make minor corrections and save yourself a lot of painful collisions. And if you did happen to hit something, that wasn't your end. You still had a couple of more attempts waiting in the wings, time enough to probably see your adventure through to its conclusion or at least to make a lot of progress. Here, extra chances are for chumps. Anything you touch means "Game Over" and your earnings are tallied and you get to ask yourself if you want to try again.

You very well might do just that, because The VideoKid does have a few notable qualities working in its favor. When I said it was a throwback to the late 80s and early 90s, I didn't just mean that it closely mimics the Paperboy style of game. It also throws in all sorts of references to the period. Part of the fun is just seeing what all references you can spot, and they come at such a frenzied pace that sometimes you'll see two or three of them produced--in charming blocky graphics that look like something out of Crossy Road--on a single screen.

The VideoKid (Switch) image

Near the start of the stage, you usually will see the Care Bears chilling on a bench. But sometimes it's the California Raisins, or Alvin and the Chipmunks. In any event, you can toss some tapes and knock them about for some extra points. From there, you'll keep going, running into all sorts of familiar characters from favorite cartoons to R-rated movies. It's just that lasting long enough to see everything is quite the accomplishment, because the game is so darn touchy and difficult too.

There are really only three lanes for movement: left (on the sidewalk, really), street on the left and street on the right. You can weave between these in an instant, and sometimes you'll have to make split-second changes to avoid hazards. Like you'll leap into the air to grind on the roof of an oncoming car, and as you land you have to immediately switch to the right to avoid the A-Team van as it careens wildly toward you with squad cars in its wake.

The VideoKid (Switch) image

As you play for a more extended period of time, you start to get used to a lot of the hazards and you begin to make use of the power-ups you encounter along the way. One activates a period where a jump carries you much higher. Another just fires a flurry of tapes on your behalf, but you can accomplish very nearly the same thing just by mashing the button. There's no end to your supply of tapes, no cost except a sore finger from mashing too crazily.

What might keep you playing for longer than you otherwise would--besides the hope that you'll catch another reference that warms the soul--is knowing that as you collect coins, you can gradually build up a nice pile of cash that you can then spend unlocking additional tricks (which are all but useless) and alternate character skins that don't affect gameplay except that you'll hear occasional grunts and yells from clones of favorite personalities like Daniel from "The Karate Kid" or Arnold Schwarzenegger from what seems like almost every action movie the era ever produced.

The further you play into a level, the more money you seem to earn when you pass over coins, and a good run might get you $70 or $80. The more common shorter runs (particularly when you first start playing) might net you only a few cents. And you'll start seeing way too much of the same few references, because the game makes you fight for your peeks at the late-run stuff.

The VideoKid (Switch) image

There also are surprises that are pretty much guaranteed to get you the first time or two you encounter them, even if your timing is brilliant. For example, when you drop into the second tunnel area, you have to race along an underground route that takes you past a switch on the wall. If you don't know to toss a tape at that switch, or if you know but still fail to hit it, you'll probably get taken out by a train that crosses the tracks a short time later, even if you try to dodge out of its way. Much later in the stage, a car comes up alongside you and its occupants start throwing garbage at you that you must carefully dodge. This keeps up for some time, and it's difficult to survive.

Stages are randomized, so in theory you will have a different experience on each run, but really the developers are pulling from a fairly limited box of toys. You'll get a feel for how the stage progresses fairly quickly, and over time you'll get better and better at positioning yourself to avoid the nasty surprises that might otherwise end everything prematurely... like a car that pretty much always pulls up behind you and will take you out if you're in the wrong place when it does.

The VideoKid is a reasonably good ode to an era, but its appeal is too limited to last more than an hour or two before you'll quite likely to be ready to put it down and never think of it again. It's probably worth the usual asking price of $4.99, just barely, but you'll be better off waiting to take advantage of a promotional offer. They still have those these days, just like they did in the 80s.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 28, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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