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Shakedown: Hawaii review for PS4, PS Vita, Switch


Platform: PS4
Also On: PS Vita, Switch, PC
Publisher: Vblank Entertainment
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards
ESRB: T

Shakedown: Hawaii puts you into the role of the unnamed CEO of Feeble Industries. Having initially built his fortunes in the early 80s, he’s left his company in the hands of others while he enjoyed the fine weather of the Hawaiian Islands. Flashing forward to the present, the CEO has learned that his company has been in decline as the world progressed while he was taking a siesta. Determined to rebuild his empire, he’s recruited his adult wanksta (This game isn’t the only one who can make an extremely dated reference) son, Scooter aka DJ Jockitch and an effective, but forgettable thug (His name is Al, but the CEO doesn’t bother to address him by name) to make Feeble Industries gre…profitable again.

It would be easy to say that this title is just Retro City Rampage with a fresh coat of paint and a new map, but frankly it’s a really nice coat of paint. Shakedown Hawaii takes advantage of it’s tropical location and has a lot of really impressive looking 16 bit greenery. The pixelated trees, shrubbery and sway gently in the breeze. Pedestrian mix is diverse and these NPCs can be seen doing such seemingly mundane things such as taking selfies, chatting it up on their cellphones bobbing their heads with their headphones on, or lying down the beach enjoying the sun. Houses and buildings a rendered with such personality that I would be hard pressed to say that any two buildings into are exactly the same. So visually Shakedown: Hawaii is leagues beyond Vblank Entertainment’s debut release.

Storywise the game is a more coherent compared to Retro City Rampage, relying less on nostalgic pop culture references, the game finds its humor in lampooning the absurd business practices that have developed in the last 10 to 15 years. Jokes about click-bait, sponsored content, subscription software, convenience fees all hit pretty well until you realize that this is just a look at our current consumer landscape. The game also takes the three main character approach that Rockstar utilizes in GTA5 and barely does anything with it. There is usually just 1 mission giver at anytime and the game will automatically shift over to the appropriate protagonist when needed. The only thing that distinguishes the use of the 3 characters are what upgrades they have and what arsenal they are carrying around, otherwise money is shared amongst the three.

Speaking of money, which is the main crux of the game, specifically making a lot of it. You do so by buying business that will generate revenue. Along your journey you will discover multipliers that you can purchase which will increase the amount of money the property will generate. The problem is once you own a business, it will perpetually generate revenue and there is no concern or risk of business downturn that will remove this revenue from your ledger. About half way through my playthrough, I spent about 5 minutes buying every property that was available the map and I was set in regard to money for the rest of the game. Spending cash is a separate balance which can be used clothes, weapons and character upgrades and that’s a bit more scarce…that is until the game allows you to divert company funds to give your character a salary, but like most money in this game it quickly becomes irrelevant as the only things worth buying is character upgrades. Clothes are dirt cheap and purely cosmetic, weapons are doled out regularly as you play missions. Character upgrades are pricey, but there are only 5 of them and the game is perfectly playable without purchasing any of them.

The act of making the businesses available for purchase is probably one of the more fun mechanics of the game. Shakedowns have you going into a business and terrorizing its staff until they are willing to pay for your protect. The activities are diverse and include such standards such as smashing store displays, killing the gangsters that already protect the stores to the weird such as intimidating customers by invading their personal space or shaving the head of the clerk in charge. Once a business had that purple arrow hovering in its entrance way I would make a beeline towards the store to make sure I get another “subscription” for my services.

The police of Hawaii are a rather ineffectual bunch. They will attempt to bring you to justice if they see you committing crimes, but your wanted meter will only move up at a snail’s pace. Dead Cops will also drop a cloaking device which will remove your wanted level if you manage not to commit crimes when it’s effects wear off. So suffice to say it will be a rare sight for the National Guard to step in to stop you, and it makes the game feel a little too easy.

Shakedown: Hawaii is a more robust title when compared to Retro City Rampage. However for all the features that it packs in, it doesn’t really do much with them. Things like blowing up deliver trucks, delivering coffee, and burglaries are introduced during the story mode, but once introduced these activities can be ignored with no detriment to your playthrough. The game does have a cover mechanic, but just like those extracurricular activities mentioned, ignoring it will not hinder your progress. The game is still an enjoyable romp and I do look forward to when Vblank will take this series to next phase…3D. We’ll see you again in 7-ish years…hopefully the new title will still cross-play with the Vita in 2026?

Note: Vblank provided us with a Shakedown: Hawaii PS4/PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: B