Switch version tested
Review code provided
“They say when you grow up something inside you dies.” 198X is a gorgeous game about the emotional struggle of stepping away from childhood while trying to find a place in the world to belong.
Things centre around Kid, an angsty teenager sick of his suburban life. He’s looking for an escape from it all, and finds just that in a smoke-filled basement lined with arcade cabinets. The story is broken up by five games you’ll play throughout, all the while Kid narrates in the segments between. He’ll slowly unravel why he feels the way he does, touching on subjects like school or his parents. It gives a small glimpse of why the arcade became such a powerful outlet for him.
All the arcade games are simple two-button type games but are still challenging enough and fun to play. They mimic classics like Streets of Rage or OutRun. By the time you get into any of the particular mini-games, your time is up and it’s back into the cutscenes to dive in Kid’s life. It’s a shame, as some of these games could do great as standalone titles- or at least deserving of longer levels. They tease with high scores, great art and fluid progression. In the end they pay their respects to the arcade games of the ’80s and ’90s, letting you know how Kid is spending his time.
198X can be beaten in an hour or two. It’s a short and sweet experience that never fully picks up, but hopefully is a taste of what’s to come seeing as this is the first part of an episodic series. Just as you never truly get to delve into the mini arcade games, you don’t get the full scope of what’s going on with Kid or what will happen next. Due to fantastic writing, art and music, it’s easy to feel completely invested in the story that’s being told.
It would be a shame not to mention how great the artwork is. Highly detailed pixel art fleshes out scenes of mundane suburbia and captures the feelings of loss in a childhood treehouse. We see the lights of the city in the distance. The rain as it drenches the local video store. Even the mini-games have well crafted and engaging animations. Take a look at the screenshots and see for yourself.
Although short, 198X delivers a cinematic experience with diverse gameplay. Each arcade game is well crafted and perfectly encapsulates cabinets of the era. The artwork is beautifully done and highly detailed to build a believable world. To top it off, the soundtrack perfectly compliments and moves this narrative along. The only criticism is that the game is just too short. We look forward to the next chapter of 198X.
TBG Score: 9/10
Platform: Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23/01/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Arcade
Developer: Hi-Bit Studios
Download link: eShop