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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: Retro City Rampage (PS3/Vita)

Let the Retro Rampage begin!
Do you have a passion for 8-bit gaming? Do you consider yourself to be a retro gamer? Do you enjoy parodies? Do you relish the moments when you’re having pure unadulterated fun? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then Brian Provinciano’s Retro City Rampage is ready to blast you back to the past and fill your nostalgic heart with pure pixelated joy.

What once started out as a stripped-down, 8-bit version of Grand Theft Auto 3 has evolved into an 8-bit wonder world of crime, known as Theftropolis.  Here, crime rate isn’t just at an all-time high, but instead, crime itself is the gear that keeps this city in operation. While crime-games are a dime-a-dozen in this day and age, what sets Retro City Rampage apart is that most everything that lone developer Brian Provinciano adored from the NES era was fair game to make an appearance and the end result is a game that’s absolutely saturated with 80’s gaming and pop culture references. Back to the Future, Cheers, Bionic Commando, Super Mario Bros., etc., nothing is safe from finding its way into Theftropolis and keeping a constant eye out for all the guest appearances is a large part of the game’s attraction.

Skateboard please? 
The game’s main protagonist, Player, is a typical 80’s ‘dudebro’ – mullet and all. You’ll run around the large overworld at your own leisure, hijack cars and run over anything that gets in your way, much in the same way that we did in the original Grand Theft Auto in the late 90s. But instead of mafia styled missions, here we’re treated to a wild variety that can find you beating up the Skate or Die shop owner, battling it out in Smash TV fashion, or even nailing the elusive speed of 88mph in a DeLorean time machine. There’s just no telling what the next mission entails and combined with the short mission lengths, you’ll keep playing “just one more mission” until the hours sweep you by like minutes.

While the missions are loads of fun, it’s their hysterical writing that keeps you constantly coming back for more. One memorable mission found us going to visit the unlicensed Great Gamedini, who suffers from “meat-boyitis” and is apparently quite self-conscious of his skinless appearance. Yes, we found ourselves hysterically laughing when we realized just how much the Game Genie does, in fact, look like he’s Meat Boy’s big brother, but we laughed even harder when he asked us to help him find his stolen codebooks. Yes, younger gamers might not find the NES era connotations quite as appealing here and it’s no secret that Retro City Rampage is aimed directly at old-school gamers, but the likes of newer indie game heroes like Meat Boy and Captain Commander ensures that there’s a little bit of something for everyone hiding out in the crime laden alleyways of Theftropolis.

Like most open-world sandbox games, Retro City Rampage is jam-packed with extras. Challenges are scattered about the world in mass and they test your skills in only the best ways possible: destroying cars with dynamite, beating up denizens with a variety of different weapons, etc. and the best part is that your scores are saved to online leaderboards so that you’re pitted against your friends’ as well. There are also plenty of places to waste your hard-stolen cash away too. Fancy some new headgear?  There are plenty of hat shacks to choose from, but – what if you don’t like your face? Well, then you can get an entire facial transplant to remedy your discontent. But if you get tired of buying things, then you can gamble your money away or better yet, find the local arcade and enjoy a round of Bit.Trip Runner or Super Meat Boy inspired minigames.

Just deliverin' papers
With its cross-purchase availability, those who own both a PS3 and Vita will enjoy Retro City Rampage’s cross-save functionality. It’s quick and easy to upload/download your last save from the cloud if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber and the game’s pick-up-and-play nature fits perfectly on Vita’s small screen. The two even shares a Trophy List, but sadly it doesn’t have a full list of them to share from, even though it’s a premium priced PSN title. Aside from that minor complaint, the only other issue we found was that the game’s difficulty does spike drastically in the latter part of the game, but for many of the hardcore gamers that Retro City Rampage aims to please the most, the game would be lacking without it – the 8-bit era is notorious for its high degree of difficulty.

Retro City Rampage is nothing short of a pixelated love letter to fans of the 8-bit gaming era. From the lush graphics to the rockin’ set of chiptunes, the world of Theftropolis looks and sounds like the games of old, and is packed to the point of bursting with more retro references and throwbacks than even the most schooled retro gamers could possibly remember. While younger gamers might not see the full appeal here, those from the “old school” will be hooked from the moment they realize that Player jumps just like some chubby super plumber we know all too well, which is mere minutes from the Start Screen. 

- Christopher Ingram




Review: Retro City Rampage (PS3/Vita)
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