Hands On: Replaced is a Stylish Cyberpunk Platformer with an ’80s Cinematic Edge

If like me, you’re a sucker for a gritty Cyberpunk setting, then you’re going to love Replaced. Set in alternate version of 1980s America, this action platformer takes us on a journey across Pheonix-City, a dystopian wasteland where greed and corruption rules, and outlaws are rife in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. This week, I managed to get my hands on a demo of Replaced, and it’s looking incredibly promising.

The preview we played was split into three distinct sections, demonstrating Replaced’s strengths in different areas. In the prologue, I’m introduced to our protagonist, R.E.A.C.H, an artificial intelligence that becomes trapped in a human body during an explosion. Before you’ve had time to question what has happened, R.E.A.C.H and his fleshy prison are faced with the greatest ultimatum – run or die.

This initiates a high-octane chase scene, with R.E.A.C.H having to leap over obstacles and calculate pauses to the nanosecond, lest you be captured or coldly gunned down. This sequence set a tense, unforgiving tone for Replaced – the inputs are simple, but there’s a distinct rhythm to it, and your timing is paramount. However, what really makes this section feel exciting is its gorgeous cinematic transitions; the game flows seamlessly from playable segments to animated cutscenes that feel like an explosive ’80s action movie. Light particles cascade down through trees and seep through large, imposing steel fences as I sprint from my doom – I actually died a few times getting distracted by the scenery. The apex of this chase segment sees me leap from a ledge and into another epic cinematic moment, drenched in cold, Blade Runner-esque colors. True care has gone into making this resonate like a classic action movie, but with an extremely cool pixel art twist.

The meatiest part of the demo sees R.E.A.C.H. arrive at his new home in Phoenix-City, an abandoned train station that’ll also serve as a hub for the game. Here, I met a diverse cast of characters with their own mysterious goings-on, and this is where Replaced’s story begins to shine. Just like the home they share, everyone that R.E.A.C.H meets seems to come with moral complexities and each is doing what they must endure to survive – which is not always obvious to R.E.A.C.H. As an A.I., their comprehension for how characters behave doesn’t always align with their surroundings, which makes for interesting conversations as the story begins to unfold.

Again, I’m met with some incredible designs – as I meander through the station, I pass derelict, crumbling buildings illuminated by rainbow string lights, a neon-soaked ’80s-imbued arcade, and a bustling market with myriad stalls selling odds and ends. One particular street shows me an abundance of potted plants spilling over rusting, metal shelves, set just above a group of stragglers perched on mismatched sofas watching TV. Humans with missing limbs pass me on crutches, others on the shoulders of able-bodied allies, making Replaced’s hub feel truly alive and full of thought. This isn’t just a radical dystopian future where you get be the badass hero, it’s showcasing the misery and resilience of a society trying to get by in uncompromising circumstances.

The final section gives me a taste for the combat, which unsurprisingly also comes with a distinct sense of classic cool. With a series of deftly timed inputs, I disarm an enemy, steal his club and then begin wailing on the rest of the group. I need to use melee attacks in order to charge my gun attack, which allows me to fire off one devastating bullet before the bar is empty again. This is an interesting way to approach combat and again leans back into the aforementioned struggle – you have the skills to feel like a badass, but something like firing a weapon requires work at this stage, and every bullet is well earned.

By the end of the preview, I felt extremely ready to dip into the full release of Replaced and uncover the stories buried within Phoenix City. If Replaced sounds like your retro-futuristic jam, be sure to stay up to date with the game on X (formerly Twitter) at @ReplacedGame.