Like Level 22, Replay: VHS Is Not Dead seems to have appeared out of nowhere on the Wii U eShop. It’s a puzzle platform game that’s been out a fair while on the PC and has now made it’s way to home consoles, which is great because the game is pretty awesome!
With a highly tongue in cheek retro theme (If you couldn’t tell be the name) the story begins as Harvey is visiting his local video rental shop to grab a handful of VHS’s courtesy of his lifetime club card. Unfortunately, on the way home Harvey gets struck by lightening, as can often be the case. His VHS’s now possess a strange power and Harvey, in a panicked attempt to make things return to normal, is sucked into his TV and lands in the movie world.
The story is fun and Harvey comes across a nice variety of characters as he makes his way through various movie worlds with pop culture references left, right and centre. You start in a world of pirates before moving on to sci-fi, haunted house and finally an Indian Jones style adventure place.
The meat of the game is in its puzzles. The goal is to get your characters from their starting position to a defined point of the stage considered the ‘exit’. It sounds simple enough but there are a couple of things that set Replay apart. First is that you have to guide multiple characters to different exit points while helping each other, be it pressing a switch, providing a leg-up or blocking hazards.
The second sounds rather complicated and is fairly difficult to express in writing, but here goes: You choose one character to move first, doing as much as you can go before some sort of hurdle prevents itself. You then press the rewind button (thanks to Harvey’s VHS remote) with ZL. This resets everything to the beginning. You then switch to the other character(s) and do their thing. While you’re controlling the new character, the character you just moved will now perform the actions you just did, almost like you set a program routine for them. I’d compare it to Human Resource Machine, but more accessible, involved and simply better.
You take in turns between the characters making a little progress each turn. A hypothetical example could be: You take control of Character 1 and push a crate down to a lower level. Rewind. Now take control of Character 2 who can wait for the Character 1 to push the crate down, so you can use it as a platform to reach a higher level. From here you can stand on a switch to open a door blocking Character 1’s way. Rewind. As Character 1, you must push the crate down again for Character 2 who is waiting for it. Wait for him to climb up and press the switch so you can pass through the door… and so on. I hope you get the idea.
You need to rewind over and over again to progress a little at a time. It’s not as bad as it may seem thanks to the instant rewind (pressing ZL twice) and fast-forwarding with ZR. I found most of the puzzles cleverly designed. They often appear difficult at first glance, but once you begin to experiment with the characters, it all seems to fall into place and that little switch at the back of your head will click and it’ll all start to make sense. It’s genuinely really good.
There’s one small issue that I have with the game. If you bump into another character while they are doing their routine, it will completely put it off. If you stall them just a little bit by getting in their way they will probably fail to complete them. I’m not sure how the developers could have combated this as it seems to be a natural thing that goes hand in hand with the concept, plus once you recognize the problem it’s much easier to avoid it.
Each movie world you enter has 15 normal levels and then a final boss battle, which is really quite interesting. I’m not usually a fan of boss battles in games, but they’re really well done here. They feel epic, difficult, but definitely doable. Putting multiple characters in motion, teaming up to slowly, yet in the end smoothly, take it down is fantastic.
There’s plenty of content in Replay too, and I think you get your money’s worth for the asking price. Aside from just completing the levels, you can collect optional keys in each stage which can open bonus levels provided you have enough. Some keys are actually quite difficult to get and you need to go out of your way to get many of them. Another option is clearing the levels within a certain time to earn medals; be it bronze, silver or gold. Now these are a challenge. You seriously need to optimise every character’s movements to perfection if you want to get that gold. I’m personally very interested in going back and at least trying to get more medals.
Overall, Replay is awesome and it was a pleasure to play. It’s head scratching at it’s finest because you know that experimenting just a little will reward you with the solution. It will make you feel clever. The puzzles are well crafted and the mechanics are pretty ingenious even if they have a small flaw that comes with it. I’d keep an eye out for Replay during my end of year lists!
– Excellent mechanics
– Well designed puzzles
– Nicely presented
– All too easy to disrupt another character’s routine