Some games aim to twist your mind. Replay: VHS Is Not Dead forces you to think on levels that will give your brain quite the workout, but is it worth all the mental energy or should you just pay the late fee?
If you've been a gamer for as long as I have, I'm sure you've played at least a few games that start with the hero being sucked into his television. Replay: VHS Is Not Dead begins with a young man named Harvey who rents a bunch of movies after a hard day of delivering mattresses. On the way back to his pad, he gets struck by lightning. As expected, upon sliding a video tape into his trusty VCR, he ends up in the movies that he was planning on watching. These films compose the campaign's areas and are parodies of Pirates of the Caribbean (Corsairs of the Canaries), Star Trek (Star Trip VII: Wrath of the Glubons), Friday the 13th (Tuesday the 31th: A Nightmare in Transylvania), and Indiana Jones (Nevada Johnson and the Trident of Neptune). It's a solid premise for a game that'll make anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s feel right at home.
You play each stage by controlling characters to reach their appropriate exits. First, you select which one to move then once you've made an inch of progress, you rewind to the beginning and select the next desired character. While moving this character, you'll see the original one that you already controlled move exactly as you did prior. I know that this sounds complicated so let me give a simple example. One stage may involve moving a character to stand on a button thus allowing another one to enter a doorway and stand still so a third character can jump on their head to reach a high platform. Keep in mind; you control all of these folks one at a time so you progress through each stage very slowly. Considering the stages become unthinkably complex, you may have to control each character a dozen or so times to get the correct sequence of events figured out. Obviously, you'll need to have a ton of patience and a passion for handling complex logic puzzles with unequivocal precision to get the most out of this off-the-wall adventure. If this describes you then you're in luck because you'll be in for one satisfying puzzle-solving journey that'll push you to your limits.
Each area contains 15 stages and a boss. I'm actually impressed that they managed to craft 60 main stages seeing as the gameplay is so mind-bending. This is especially the case when you factor in all of the complexities that slowly get introduced throughout the course of the campaign. You'll come across features such as platforms that slowly retract, lasers that can be reflected to activate switches, droids that move after a given amount of time, and anti-gravitational fields. The cherries on top of this delightful multi-layered puzzle sundae are the bosses which require a lot of abstract thinking to defeat. Even if you manage to beat the entire campaign, you can always go back to discover keys that unlock bonus stages and get gold medals by beating stages in under their par times. If you decide to do that, remember that being quick on your feet won't guarantee success; it all relies on coming up with efficient solutions.
It should be obvious by now that the biggest hurdle to overcome is that Replay: VHS Is Not Dead will appeal to a very niche crowd. Only gamers with a thirst for an intensely twisted mental workout will get enjoyment out of the experience. However, even if you are one of these gamers, you'll face many frustrating moments that may be enough to force you to push eject. Whenever you see a character miss a jump because another character stepped off of a switch a bit too soon or you notice a couple of characters running into each other by accident, it can be very difficult to iron out the wrinkles. Seeing as you have to memorize large chains of precise events for each character, any little slip-up can make you restart a stage from scratch which is devastating after working away for minutes trying to piece it all together. Finally, considering how challenging Replay is, you'd think that there would be leaderboards to climb but there are no online features to be found at all. This is definitely a missed opportunity as it would have added a competitive element to the mix.
Replay: VHS Is Not Dead is one of the most unique puzzlers that I've ever played. Although it won't entice a wide audience and it has its fair share of annoyances, you're bound to absolutely love the time you spend starring in the movies if you fit into its tight niche.
- + Awesome nostalgic premise
- + Unique gameplay will blow your mind with its satisfyingly complex puzzles
- + Impressive fully featured campaign
- - Only appeals to hardcore puzzle solvers
- - Many frustrating moments force you to keep trying until your patience runs out
- - Lack of online features such as leaderboards