Replay: VHS is Not Dead (PC) Review

By Athanasios 23.08.2015

Review for Replay: VHS is Not Dead on PC

Hidden amongst the law-abiding, church-going, pop music-listening, national anthem-singing, general public, are some folk who, instead of driving a race car at breakneck speeds, slaying packs of demons, or shooting down undead Nazi soldiers, enjoy melting their brains with those challenging, but not that adrenaline-pumping, puzzle games - then again, if they weren't so entertaining, they wouldn't be as abundant. Of course, quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality; however, the genre's main problem is actually its significant lack in variety, with most available titles pretty much recycling the same few mechanics. Thankfully, Replay: VHS is Not Dead doesn't make the same mistake, and instead features a concept that is as original as it is fun.

True to the spirit of the '80s, Harvey Hachess' bizarre journey begins with a visit to the local video rental shop, where a beautiful blue-eyed, blue-haired, and, quite possibly, blue lingerie-wearing girl, is working… named Blue. Harvey gets some tapes, walks out, and gets hit by lightning, giving his tapes a weird, baby blue aura. Not really discouraged from this small interruption, he does what every cinema-nerd would do: he tries out his recently acquired movies, and gets - literally - sucked into them in the process!

The introductory cut-scene has an amateurish, yet charming indie look, but after Harvey's warp the graphics take a nice, retro twist. Replay: VHS is Not Dead's 2D world is locked at 1280 x 720, yet it looks quite good in all its pixelated glory, with all levels being colourful, detailed, and with a TV scan line filling the foreground, adding to the overall old-school atmosphere. Wait, though. How on earth will Harvey escape?

Screenshot for Replay: VHS is Not Dead on PC

Each of the four "enchanted" tapes is a world, and each one has several levels that must be completed via guiding all on-screen characters towards their corresponding portraits; characters who can help each other out, but also ruin everything with a single misstep. Before starting to shout at them, however, bear in mind that this is a co-op mission where everyone is in fact one person: the player! Since simultaneous, real-time control of multiple characters is out of the question, this has to be a turn-based videogame, right? Surprisingly, the answer is neither positive, nor negative.

At its core, this is a 2D platformer, similar to The Lost Vikings. Characters can jump over obstacles, push objects, press buttons, open doors, and so on. The innovation lies in the ability to record character movement, and, even better, to rewind time - an effect that looks remarkably as if an actual video tape is being rewinded. In practice, this means that the actions of the currently-controlled character are being "tracked," and will be automatically be replayed when another one is chosen to be recorded next.

Screenshot for Replay: VHS is Not Dead on PC

Such unique gameplay certainly needs some getting used to, yet the learning curve is excellent, with each stage being just a tiny bit harder than the previous one, either by making things more complicated, or by introducing a new element, be it a new device or hazard. Don't expect a hand-holding trip, though. This is not just another casual puzzler that challenges everyone but seasoned gamers; this is tough… almost Lemmings-type tough.

After the first couple of levels, prepare for lots of time wasted on staring at the monitor, trying to figure out what must be done, with whom, where, and when. Also, prepare for an insane amount of trial-and-error, and uncountable occasions where character actions must be timed and retimed over and over again, with a single wrong or unsynchronised step destroying the effort of more than five minutes - or worse. Then again, that is why Harvey's main power is time-rewinding, isn't it?

Screenshot for Replay: VHS is Not Dead on PC

Both the movie-themed chapters and secondary characters are inspired from popular pieces of the seventh art's history - obviously with different names, yet it's always fun to play as Sydney Weather in "Star Trip VII," or Capt. Parrot in "Corsairs of the Canaries;" and besides their aesthetic differences, all worlds challenge Harvey and his gang in their own unique ways, including spikes, lasers, and even gravity-altering poltergeists. Note that, although this ordeal takes an average of about 10 hours to end, trying to get a 100% completion rate is where the real fun is at.

The real reward is the feeling that the clearing of a tough stage can give, but collectibles always manage to add to the fun, like the keys and medals that can be acquired in each of the 60 levels. Keys are essentially a puzzle within a puzzle, since they complicate things even more if wanting to grab them, and medals are won by speed-running, with golden medals being so tough to get at times that even a few milliseconds can make a difference. Yes, this means even more rewinding and trial-and-error, yet Replay: VHS is Not Dead manages to masterfully balance repetition and punishment with tons of fun.

Screenshot for Replay: VHS is Not Dead on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

If it was only up to the innovative mechanics, this would probably be slightly less commended; however, Replay: VHS is Not Dead's biggest strength, and one of the reasons that it is one of the better indie gems of the puzzle genre, is its balance. While a challenging game, it never becomes aggravating enough to throw the gamepad out of the window, and the very repetitive and trial-and-error-heavy gameplay is in perfect equilibrium with the enjoyment that the numerous grey matter-twisters that are in store can give - with everything packaged in a colourful, retro bundle of fun, and for less than £7.00.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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