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Retro City Rampage Review

I’ll be honest; it took me this long to review Retro City Rampage because there’s just so many things to see, and so many things to do in the game. On one hand it’s one of the game’s strengths; on the other hand Retro City Rampage crams in so many gameplay styles with erratic difficulty and checkpoints that mar the experience.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the game, in fact, as a kid who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s I loved the gratuitous amount of nostalgia and throwbacks to movies, games, and events of the time. I loved that there was just so much to do and see that I actually spent most of my time just running around Theftropolis customizing my character, running amuck with power-ups, and causing chaos with the multitude of interesting weapons that are available. It was just that damn fun.

Top-down perspective, 8-Bit pixel art, old-school meets new-school gameplay.

Retro City Rampage plays a lot like the original Grand Theft Auto on PC, meaning that it’s seen from an overhead perspective. The city of Theftropolis feels like a living, breathing city with interesting and colorful citizens. Part of the game’s open-world charm is seeing the funny/spoof references on many billboards, shop signs, and locations all around the city. There’s always something cool to see at every city block, so many stores to visit, and so many secrets to find. Though I did keep wondering why the stores weren’t easily found on the game’s mini-map; it was quite frustrating to have to find the store that I had visited once or twice before.

Once I did start the main campaign, I couldn’t put my Vita and PS3 controller down since most missions had me guessing on who else might make an appearance/cameo or even how much more crazy the story can become. I mean for God’s sake, I never expected to play missions that had Saved by the Bell and Ghostbusters characters in it. Oh and let’s not forget the game industry cameos ranging from Destructoid, PlayStation Blog, Electric Playground and more. If you’re a fan of the video game industry, you’ll love this part of the game.

Free-roam and cause havoc as much as you want.

Players take control of “Player,” a low-ranking henchman who gets transported to the future after a bank heist goes awry. In the future, Player must work with the different crazy characters in Theftropolis to cause as much havoc as possible. (And to get back to his own time) Player’s missions feature gameplay and controls that harken back to old-school games like Paper Boy, Legend of Zelda, Smash TV, Contra, Root Beer Tapper and more. As well, it employs modern game mechanics like wall cover, twin-stick shooting, fully-featured character customization, and online leaderboards.

Of course it wouldn’t be an open-world game without cars to “borrow,” and Retro City Rampage is filled to the brim with them. The game features over 50 cars ranging from motorcycles, to sports cars, to trucks, and even unique automobiles like the time-travelling Delorean and the Ecto-1. Each of the vehicles exhibit different speeds and handling, though driving controls can sometimes become an issue. There’s never a minute when I’m not crashing into other cars or running over innocent civilians. Thankfully, the game features two driving schemes that may suit the player’s needs. Try them both and see what works best for you.

Combat controls fare a bit better since players can use the right analog stick (PS Vita, PS3) to aim and fire their weapons. I suggest that over pressing and holding square to shoot . The advantage of using twin-stick shooting is especially prevalent in missions where players have to fight through waves of enemies.

Some levels harken back to old-school games but the controls don’t quite match with the game mechanics.

Then you get into the missions and levels that introduce new gameplay and mechanics; while it’s quite interesting to see the throwbacks to older games, the difficulty unfortunately suddenly spikes and the checkpoints become scarce. I know these missions are going for that old-school gameplay and feel (which include brutal difficulties) but it would’ve been nice to have generous checkpoints for longer missions with multiple objectives. I can’t even count how many times I got frustrated having to restart at the beginning of a longer level after accidentally dying of a mistimed jump or hitting a hard-to-dodge death trap.

TECHNICAL PRESENTATION

AUDIORetro City Rampage doesn’t have any voice-overs being an 8-bit throwback game and all, but it does feature a great chiptune soundtrack featuring composers Freaky DNA, virt, and Norrin Radd. The game includes two and a half hours of music ranging from music inspired by retro classics to modern music transformed to chiptunes, with most songs featuring musical details, textures, and beats.

GRAPHICSRetro City Rampage features some of the nicest pixel art direction I’ve seen in a long time. For a game that presents it’s world in top-down perspective, there’s so much detail to be found on the characters, environments, and cars that it’s mind-blowing The fact that you can tell if the character is sporting a mask, a cap, a goatee, or even a pervert mustache still gets me everytime. This is top-notch pixel art, not the kind of stuff you’ll find in lesser productions.

I especially liked the amount of video/color/graphic customization that helped the game look like the NES, AMIGA, DOS-PC, and even the Virtual Boy. A blast from the past indeed.

PROS

+ Nostalgia from beginning to end
+ Rewarding open-world gameplay
+ Living, breathing city of Theftropolis and its citizens
+ Great mish-mash of old-school and modern game mechanics
+ Amazing pixel art direction
+ Well-done chiptune soundtrack
+ Cameos and crossovers from classic games, classic movies, and game industry personalities

CONS

– Erratic checkpoints
– Old-school missions that switch up gameplay with uneven/stiff controls
– Some missions make fun of the tedious nature of some modern game mechanics, yet later in the game you’ll find RCR uses it as well. (Tailing mission, etc.)
– Infuriating, turn-off-your system difficulty spikes.
– AT CORP Sidescrolling level. (Sweat Bomber, Oh how I hate you so much.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Developer Brian Provinciano worked on Retro City Rampage for almost a decade, and the amount of time spent working on the details on the characters, the pixel art, the nostalgic factor, and the fun gameplay was well worth the effort. When you get Retro City Rampage, you get a glimpse of how gaming was back in the 80’s and 90’s, with a lot less of the frustrating parts. Like I said earlier, there’s so much crammed into the game that you’ll never get bored, but there are just too many gameplay styles with erratic difficulties and checkpoints that hold it from true greatness.

Still, the whole package is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything comes together in the end to create a fun, yet slightly flawed game. Would I recommend it?

Hell yes I would.

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About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming. http://jtmgames.com/

Posted on November 11, 2012, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Jan,

    Hello sir. I have been reading your articles for a while now and I have to say that I really do love JTM Games. The articles are well written and I appreciate that you have an affinity for game designs that are less-mainstream. It’s a blessing to see folks focus on the more artistic games of the industry. I dig your Pros and Cons list, because I use them frequently on my own blog when determining game accessibility. I just thought I’d stop in and tell you that I enjoy your work.

    I’ll definitely give Retro City Rampage a try now.

    • Thanks for your kind words Chad. I really appreciate you taking the time to read through our articles and our reviews. We try to do our best and cover Indie (specifically Canadian) games that demonstrate production value, creativity, and fun. And yeah we chose to go with Pros/Cons because we feel it is a disservice to the developer and the readers if we only gave a score out of ten for hits and site visits. It’s more helpful to those reading to know why we liked or disliked a game.

      By the way, I’ve checked out Gastrogamer and love that you point the spotlight towards gamers that inspire you. I look forward to reading more of them.

  1. Pingback: 2012: The Year of the Canadian Indie « JTM GAMES

  2. Pingback: Retro City Rampage Discounted to $10 on PS3 and Vita This Monday « JTM GAMES

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