Retro City Rampage [Review]

  • Platform: PlayStation 3/Vita (reviewed), PC (Wii and Xbox 360 soon)
  • Published by: Vblank Entertainment Inc.
  • Developed by: Vblank Entertainment Inc.
  • Genre: Action
  • ESRB Rating: T for Teen
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: October 9, 2012

Retro City Rampage: A love letter and homage to everything geek culture throughout the ages, all bundled in a game. After a laborious development period over many years by a one man team, the game is finally out. Taking 8-Bit to the max, Retro City Rampage is jam-packed with cameos, satires, and references that could make any legal department squirm.  With so much geeky goodness, Retro City Rampage was looking to be an indie title with a lot of promise. Did this game live up to the legacy of the 8-bit era?

Retro City Rampage is an 8-bit open-world game where you take control of the character “Player,” in a retrofitted crime satire. In this world, you’re pretty much free to do whatever you please. Steal vehicles, play a ton of mini games, cause chaos with your arsenal of weapons, run from the cops, and so much more. Think: Grand Theft Auto if it came out in 1987. There is a story mode, arcade mode, and free roam. The story takes Player on several missions given by characters you meet throughout the game. The arcade challenge mode will bring up a list of challenges that you have unlocked from the story mode.  Here you can revisit these challenges from a variety of challenge types and go for the best score, uploading them to leaderboards. Free roaming mode is simply that – go throughout the city and do whatever you want with no real objective. In this mode, you’ll have all the weapons and vehicles that you have obtained throughout the game available to use for whatever your heart pleases.

The story mode doesn’t have the best story, or even a very clear one – yet it does have a ton of missions that are pretty fun to go on. This mode boasts over 60 missions with a variety of gameplay types. For a top-down, 8-bit game, there are quite an impressive number of ways to play the game. Blatantly borrowing elements directly from some of the greatest and most memorable throwback games, Retro City Rampage will put you on racing missions, shooting missions, stealth missions, and so much more. I was impressed at the amount of things you can do in this game and attention to detail. You’ll find a load of references and satires from geek and pop culture through the ages. Everything from Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Batman, Pitfall, Bomberman, Back to the Future, Bill and Ted, Donkey Kong, and even some official appearances from Meatboy and Minecraft among others. The list goes on and on. While I wouldn’t exactly call the text-based dialogue clever, it can be pretty straight forward and humorous at times throughout the game. We all love to see cameos and funny references to pop culture every now and then in other forms of media. You’ll get a lot of that in Retro City Rampage’s story. Every second there is a reference to something we know – at times it can be an “oh man that’s cool!” moment, however usually it’s so blatant that appearances can be a little underwhelming. From time to time, even with the variety of mission modes, the pacing of the game can drag or feel repetitive. Overall however, the story mode is fun not so much for the story itself, but more so the variety of missions and challenges you are able to go on.

Gameplay is the real focus in the game and is pretty fast paced. Playing on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3, the game controlled fairly well giving you several options on how you wanted to play the game using the D-Pad, analog sticks, and other buttons. I found the controls to be fairly responsive and easy to use. The only real problem I had with controls came with aiming. There is a way to lock on a target, but target lock isn’t always the best way to play, especially when you’re playing missions where you have to fight a large group of enemies. At these moments, I found that using the thumbsticks to aim and shoot to be much more effective. There are also a few challenges where you have to stop on enemies a la Mario and press the square button to do so. I found myself getting into a little trouble because, as a top down 8-bit game, it was a little hard to aim at the character and the stomping didn’t feel like it was working as it was supposed to. Other than those few quirks, the gameplay was great. With a ton of weapons to wreak havoc, loads of cars to take, powerups for your character to master, Retro City Rampage can provide a good amount of fun in gampelay.

There are also a lot of side things to do apart from missions, arcade challenges, or free roam. There are tons of collectibles to find in the game, tons of weapons, secret locations, and a lot of buildings that you can go into. Throughout the city, you will find places where you can customize your character, his hair, tattoos, buy weapons, fix and upgrade vehicles, and so much more. Exploring the city and finding all of these items and shops will definitely add a bit of replay value. Add this to the arcade challenge mode and free roams, you’ll get even more bang for your buck as there’s a lot to do in the game.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pW3e7x2T3U]
 

Graphically, Retro City Rampage is still an amazing accomplishment, even at 8-bit. The variety of vehicles, weapons, buildings, and the scope of the city and the detail within is a feat worthy of praise on its own. One cool thing about the game is that, keeping in like with being the ultimate homage to the retro 8-bit era, you can change your graphics settings to look like a variety of different screens from the past. For example, you can go back to the PC DOS looks, Black and White TV, or the red and black of Virtual Burn (like that in virtual reality games). It’s an unnecessary touch but an awesome attention to detail giving the gamer a host of ways to customize the way they play, right down to the way the game looks. Sound in the game also stays true to the chiptunes from back in the day but bringing it in line with the technology of today. You can switch radio stations throughout the game to pick your favorite 8-bit music!

Retro City Rampage is a fun and direct homage to everything that has shaped gaming and geek culture over the decades. The gameplay is fun and fast paced while offering a lot of things to do. The story itself isn’t anything special, but it does provide a sometimes humorous take on all the games and movies that most of us grew up with, from NES’ Duck Hunt even down to more recent ones like Nolan’s The Dark Knight. If this game came out at the time that it is representing, this probably would have made the history books as one of the best games ever. Unfortunately, times have changed. While the gameplay offers a lot to do and can be fairly fun for a pick up and play game it was far from amazing and there just felt like something was lacking. I hate to be this guy, but it could even have been a co-op or multiplayer addition to the game, which I think could have turned up the fun level a whole lot. However, where the game stands, it’s an accomplishment that deserves applause and commendation. It took everything we loved and put it in one package for a fun look at the past.

FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10

 

[Note: Thanks to Vblank Entertainment, who provided GamerXChange with a free set of codes for review.]

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