Word has reached me via new-fangled “electronic mail”, shipped along the Information Superhighway via Cybernetic Postie, of a game known as VHS Story [official site]. Promoting a game via the “world wide web”? Wonders will never cease!
VHS Story bills itself as a strategy / tycoon sim in which you manage a street fightin’ man (henceforth: fightman). It overtly describes itself as drawing inspiration from Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story, the popular mobile game. If you’re unfamiliar you might instead remember 2012’s Game Dev Tycoon, which took both mechanical and narrative inspiration from Game Dev Story.
Enough about other games. What’s the deal with VHS Story? Well, it’s made by a Saint Petersburg-based studio somewhat confusingly named Gamejam, flew through Steam Greenlight in just a few days, and here’s its punchy trailer:
The VHS of the game’s title turns out to be one of many referential gags, since here it’s an abbreviation of “Video Hero Super”, which is a bit less snappy than “Video Home System” but does fit with the incoherent translated stories of many an 80s or 90s street brawler. It’s such games, along with the deliciously cheesy fightman-starring cinema releases of those decades, that provide the tycoon skeleton with its meaty, muscular wrapping.
How well you get on with VHS Story may depend on how you feel about referential, nostalgic humour. Plenty of games trade on this nowadays, particularly in the indie space, and it’s no longer rare enough to automatically come loaded with charm. We’ll have to wait and see how VHS Story does on that front, but the dedicated can for now peruse the teaser trailer. There’s at least one groaner in there so bad I’d not even try and sneak it into an RPS headline: a poster of boxer “Stoney” in the fightman’s home gym. That said, I do rather like the appearance of Casey Jones’ weaponry in a later scene.
One promised feature of VHS Story stands out as a touch more modern than the rest: a non-linear storyline. What this actually means in practice is anyone’s guess, but speaking as someone who likes Kairosoft games I’d very much like to see a take on their formula that didn’t play out almost identically every time.
I also love the final bit in the game’s trailer in which it describes itself as offering “Nice pixelart and 8-bit sound”. Not “amazing pixelart” or “stunning” or any number of other adjectives, but “nice”. It inadvertently leads me to think of a simpler, more naive time… like the 1990s. Very nice.