When the possibility of reviewing ‘Replay: VHS is not dead’ came up, I jumped at the chance. I had the opportunity to get a quick hands on with it at the Indie section of Eurogamer last year, and both its style and premise had left an impression. The real question though was could the full title maintain the pacing and gameplay I experienced first-hand in September.
Replay follows the story of Harvey, an eccentric lover of VHS who, when leaving his local video store with his latest movie choices, is struck by lightning. Surviving, but dazed, he returns home to find all of the videos destroyed. While panicked, he hammers on his remote and is sucked directly into the video. Harvey must now play out the chapters of the film in which he is trapped to restore the tape, and escape to the next movie.
To complete each scene you must navigate each movie character and Harvey to their portraits simultaneously. Each character begins in a unique position, and as you take control you move them through the environment. As you also pulled your remote into the world with you this gives you the ability to rewind the actions of all the characters in the scene. Selecting a new character locks in the previous path your original character took and allows you to interact with them to reach your goal. This begins with straightforward box pushing or standing on one another’s heads to reach higher platforms, but gets increasingly complex as you progress with gravity altering, laser redirection and multiple various characters throwing new complications into the mix.
Each of the four themed movies is broken up into 15 unique stages, 3 bonus stages and a boss fight to round out the levels. The base stages each have a key that goes towards unlocking the bonuses, but typically requires a lot of deviation from the most straightforward path in order to collect them. These bonus stages unlock additional collectibles giving you more information about the characters from the movies you are acting in.
To further mix things up in the boss fights alongside the puzzle elements, these battles have real time threats that also must be avoided while you solve the puzzles. These boss battles are without a doubt my highlight of the game, with their mix of action, puzzles and platforming testing your reactions, memory skills and lateral thinking within a single level.
For the more hardcore among us, there is also a medal system, which is awarded upon speedy completion of the levels. It is obvious that to do so requires ignoring the key available on that stage in order to shave precious seconds from your clock but it is obvious that even doing that is not enough to get gold on some of them. I found myself more than once wondering how I could shave an extra few seconds from the run I previously thought perfect, in order to fully complete the challenge, but some just had me shaking my head in disbelief at the time it wanted me to achieve. That said, it wasn’t long into the review that the achievement for “spending 10 mins on a single puzzle room” popped, and when each of the puzzles last around 20-30 seconds from starting the run to all characters being at their portraits this achievement gives some indication of how addictive the gameplay can become.
While the platforming is accurate and the puzzles increase in difficulty at a steady rate, the only true downside relates to the rewind function itself. As you deduce the paths needed for each of the characters, there will be numerous interactions between them. Each of the later levels require the ability to memorise each individual’s movements, as well as figure out the increasingly difficult puzzle room and should you make a mistake, your only option is to rewind the entire action sequence you have just performed with that character no matter how far into the puzzle you have gone. This hard-line, all or nothing approach had a dual effect. When you failed, the frustration could be extremely high, but when you succeed, either through perfect timing or reflex reactions, knowing how easily it could have gone awry does give you an overwhelming sense of achievement.