198X (PS4) | Impressions (Review)

198X (PS4) | Impressions (Review)

So a while back I helped Kickstart a game
called “198X” by Hi-Bit studios, and for over a year I’ve been really excited to
play this game. I finally got my PS4 copy earlier today, and
all day I was ready to get home and play it. I booted up my PS4, started the game, and
within the first 20 minutes, I was completely blown away. So much so that I was ready to call it my
Game of the Year. But…that wasn’t the end of the story. 198X is a retro-style narrative, multi-genre
game. The story follows a young woman who is looking
for something her small-town can’t provide. She is able to find solace in a nearby underground
Arcade, and these narrated cutscenes are interspersed with arcade-style mini-games whose themes
are familiar to the hardships our main character is experiencing. One thing that took me by surprise right off
the bat was the amazing care that was given to the game’s visuals and soundtrack. The soundtrack is actually so good, it made
me regret not going for the Vinyl reward in the Kickstarter, and I really hope the developers
at least release it digitally in the future. The narrative also surprised me, as I wasn’t
aware of how much of the game was actually going to be spent following a story versus
the time in the arcade games. The story is a bit hard to follow, as things
are purposely left vague, but it’s very easy to relate to the feelings of rebellion
and angst the main character feels in the first part of this story. That’s right: the first part. 198X is actually just the first part of a
multi-game epic telling this story. And this first part is only going to last
you around 2 hours, tops. In fact, my playthrough lasted almost exactly
an hour and a half. The game is launching at $10US, so keep the
length vs price in mind if you’re looking to buy. I don’t want to spoil too much, because
I did really enjoy my time through this game: at least in the beginning. I’ll be talking about the gameplay of each
arcade mini-game offered, but I won’t be spoiling the narrative or certain events that
I feel are best left inexperienced until your first playthrough. However, I will be showing off a good amount
of the game, so be forewarned. The first game, Beating Heart, is a classic
side-scrolling beat-em-up that really just serves as our intro into the world. There isn’t much you can do by way of fighting,
so it’s really just a matter of mashing the attack button and drinking in the nostalgia. The second game, Out of the Void, is a horizontally
scrolling shooter (which for the record, I’m generally horrible at) that I actually had
a ton of fun playing. I died a couple times, but I felt it was actually
doing a great job teaching me how to play it. The next game: The Runaway, might actually
be one of my favorite experiences in gaming this year. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but
at a certain point, there’s a shift where the game starts to bleed into our characters
thoughts and the way the scenery and music changes is just ..mwuah. Plus the top speed of the car is 255, which
is the maximum value of an 8-bit integer(commonly used in arcade games of the time), so I don’t
know if that was an intentional reference or not, but I liked it nonetheless. Unfortunately, the experience starts to take
a bit of a turn here… the next game: Shadowplay, has a giant jump in difficulty. No longer are you cruising through a city-scape
during an introspective daydream. NOW YOU’RE RUNNING AND SLASHING AND JUMPING
AND DUCKING AND DODGING AND COLLECTING POWER-UPS; it’s a bit overwhelming. I was terrible at this part. Really, it just comes down to repetition and
memorizing what hazards are coming up next. This would be fine, and is actually pretty
true to form for games of the era, but I died more because my character’s animations were
too slow, giving me barely enough time to react to anything without getting hit. My frustration was at a high during this point,
and actually made me retract my calling it Game of the Year. The next game, Kill Screen wa- wait… Kill Screen? I might need to sue somebody. While Shadowplay had you trying to handle
obstacles and enemies at breakneck speeds, Kill Screen does the exact opposite and takes
you to a dungeon crawling RPG. As I started playing this, I seriously thought
I was going to hate it. I kept dying over and over, not being able
to defeat the early monsters, but as time went on, I leveled my character up, and went
through the final bosses with ease. I want to take this moment to note that I
loved that each game took slightly longer than the last to complete, at least in my
playthrough. It was a cool little ramp-up that made each
successive game feel more important than the last, since I was putting more time into it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always a good
thing. I really did enjoy playing through this game,
I just really wish there was more there. A more cohesive, complete arc to the first
chapter would be nice, as it ends on a pretty unfulfilling cliffhanger. There’s also not really that much progression
in the story at all, at least past the first couple of minutes. The arcade games are fun little distractions,
but I don’t really feel like they did a good enough job along with the cut-scenes
to actually provide me with a captivating experience. I mean, I get what they were going for with
trying to tell the story using these two different mediums, but I just hope they pull it off
better in Part 2, whenever that may be. Note that the following score does not represent
the overall quality of the game, but rather how much I recommend checking it out based
on my experience playing through it. With that being said:

13 Replies to “198X (PS4) | Impressions (Review)”

  1. Such a fun game, I was born in the early '80s so I love old school games… The only bad thing is that is so short.. by the way, is there a physical version on PS4?

  2. Should have done away with the RPG at the end I personally hate them find them incredibly bland and boring. They should have instead done a platform game which would have kept more people happy. Also a run and gun shooter along the lines of Metal Slug/ Contra would have been cool. I want to buy this game but that bland boring dungeon crawler game has put me well off

  3. The ninja section nearly made me quit playing. Why the hell would they have down and jump be to go down a level when there's so many other buttons free. Lost count how many times I jumped into the spears trying to go down :@

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