There is something about nostalgia that people – including myself – just love, and even if what triggers isn’t as good as the original, that nostalgia can make it feel like it is: that’s what 198X is all about. 198X feeds on your favourite gaming memories and does such a good job of giving you that classic arcade experience while telling you an interesting and meaningful story that I can’t wait to get more of, considering the length.
198X is essentially a few 80s arcade games back-to-back with an awesome story attached to it. You play an unknown high school kid (literally referred to as ‘Kid’ in the credits) that seems to be suffering from depression. He has ongoing issues with his family, problems at school and just finding himself as a person until he stumbles upon an arcade hidden in an abandoned factory. You get the sense that he is discovering the world of videogames for the first time and realizes that these games can be used as an escape to transport him to another world, away from his real-life issues. A couple of the arcade games even feature monologues from the kid expressing how that certain game makes him feel when he is playing it. The story ends pretty suddenly after only two hours of play with a “To Be Continued” and you can bet I will be continuing when the other parts release.
There are five arcade games that you play throughout, each representing certain classic arcade games for the most part. First, there is Beating Heart, which is essentially a Streets of Rage clone that does a great job on replicating that experience. It doesn’t particularly feel great to play because of the slight unresponsiveness I felt, especially when your character is using weapons, but it feels good enough to the point it never feels boring.
Next, there is an R-Type inspired game called Out of the Void, which again, doesn’t feel great since the ship moved rather slow, but it never felt boring. I think it was probably the most challenging out of the five because of the slow-moving ship and because you also take damage when you hit a wall. There comes a point where there is so much being thrown at you it’s hard to not take a hit or straight up die, but it is much shorter than the others so it didn’t get annoying.
After that comes The Runaway, which is an OutRun-style racing game that actually feels great compared to most of the others and one that definitely hit close to home for me. I loved these types of racing games as a kid and this felt exactly how I remembered it feeling, with some awesome dialogue from our protagonist towards the end of the level explaining why he likes this particular game so much.
Then there is Shadowplay, which is a ninja game that isn’t exactly similar to anything I remember, but it is easily the best one out of the five, and maybe the fact it is not trying to be something else is why. It is an auto-run game where you have to jump, slide and slice your way through the area until you make it to the final boss. Everything about this game is fantastic and I would honestly play a full game of this if it was ever released.
Lastly, there is Kill Screen, a first-person RPG that is very different to everything else that came before. You essentially walk around this maze looking for dragons to kill while facing random enemies as they appear in a turn-based combat system. This final game is a lot more involved in the story than the others because it begins talking about things that directly relate to the protagonist, which at a certain point, also becomes uncomfortable.
I started out playing this game with a mouse and keyboard, but trying to handle the ship in Out of the Void with the directional buttons was not working out great so I decided to plug in my Xbox One controller and use that instead for the remaining games. The controls are for each game are very simple since there are only about two buttons for each, but they don’t tell you the controls, you have to pause and look at them in the menu for each game, which is kind of annoying but not a huge issue.
The greatest part of 198X is its style, in every sense of the word. The visual look for each level, and the world outside of the games, is beautiful in its pixelated design and definitely helps with the nostalgia they are trying to encapsulate. The music is all-around phenomenal too, but I’m just a sucker for that 80s synth music and that’s the entirety of this game. The animations and graphics for each level are excellent as well, especially for Shadowplay, which legitimately impressed me, but they all have their own awesome art style and music that fit what they are trying to accomplish.
198X feels like it was made specifically for me and my nostalgia. I love the story they are trying to tell with this kid who is discovering how videogames can help him with his mental illness while giving us some great nostalgic arcade experiences, even though they don’t feel it. The art style, music, and levels are all excellent in their own right and are some of the main reasons I had such a good time with this game. Despite it being very short, I love everything 198X is trying to do and I think it succeeds with excellent results. I can’t wait to see what kind of games they will bring in part two.
198X (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
198X feels like it was made specifically for me and my nostalgia. Despite it being very short, I love everything 198X is trying to do and I think it succeeds with excellent results. I can’t wait to see what kind of games they will bring in part two.