Also On: PS Vita
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: VBlank Entertainment
As a guy who spent his childhood plopped firmly in front of a TV connected to a NES, SNES, Genesis or other 8 to 16-bit device, I’ve found Retro City Rampage to be on absolute joy to play through on both PS Vita and PS3. The game is chockfull of great humor, references to classic games like Duck Hunt, Metal Gear, Bionic Commando, Mega Man 2 and more, and even includes a number of 80’s pop culture throwbacks culled from popular films like Back to the Future and even Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Seriously, as a kid of the 80’s, there’s a whole lot to love when it comes to Retro City Rampage, and if you’re approaching, or have passed the big 3-0, you’ll probably get a similar feeling from this well-crafted throwback.
Retro City Rampage adopts the 8-bit style of classic NES games and marries that with the core gameplay of a modern day Grand Theft Auto. You take on the role of a nameless henchman known throughout the game simply as “Player”. Player stumbles across a time machine, steals it, and causes it to breakdown on his joyride, which sort of strands him in the year 20XX. From here he needs to find the necessary components to fix the machine, and with the help of a certain Doc Choc, goes on a series of missions and side quests spread throughout a fairly large, 2D, top down city.
As mentioned above, the game evokes a big Grand Theft Auto vibe. To get around town you can carjack vehicles, and then use those vehicles to get to your destination in a variety of destructive ways. There’s a variety of vehicle types to steal, including simple bicycles and a big van pulled straight out of the A-Team. Cause enough mayhem and the police will come running, complete with a wanted meter that escalates based on how much violence and mayhem you’re causing.
The game never gets to be as graphic in its violence as Grand Theft Auto, after all, it’s firmly rooted in the 2D space with a very limited color palette meant to represent the 8-bit era. It’s also over self-aware, with plenty of tongue in cheek moments meant to lampoon not only the references to classic games it likes to reference, but also the gameplay elements that tend to make up a standard open world game like Grand Theft Auto. For instance, one mission has you tailing a vehicle, wherein you need to get close enough to keep the vehicle in your sights, but not so close as to attract attention to yourself. When this mission is presented, the Player essentially groans, states that this mission is boring, and that you might as walk to follow the car instead of drive since it moves so damn slow. For an added bonus, you not only need to follow the car around for this mission on foot, but also must occasionally stop at a coffee shop to keep the Player from falling asleep.
And besides the quality humor and retro references that Retro City Rampage is rife with, what also helps to make this work is the fact that the mission style is pretty varied. Instead of just being a series of fetch quests or shootouts, the level design for each mission manages to feel unique and acts as a standout, memorable experience from one mission marker to the next. It certainly helps if you’re familiar with the classic games that Retro City Rampage is constantly lampooning, in fact I’d expect that this game would probably be remarkably different for folks who didn’t grow up in the 8-bit or 16-bit eras, but even without that influence cueing you into the in-jokes scattered throughout I think you can still find the game very enjoyable to play.
I played through the game on both PS3 and Vita, and couldn’t find a single difference worth delving into. Both games play admirably, and come with a full host of various visual skins that represent everything from a standard NES color palette to the green hue of a classic Gameboy. The attention to detail given here is admirable, and pretty unexpected, making Retro City Rampage a real treat for retro fans. If you have access to either platform, you’d do well to check out this downloadable title, it’s certainly worth the purchase.