Game – Retro City Rampage DX
Version – 3DS eShop
ESRB Rating – T – Teen
Price – $9.99
Release Date – 06/02/2014
Publisher – Vblank Entertainment
Obtained – Review copy courtesy of Vblank Entertainment
Retro City Rampage DX’s plot revolves around a character called The Player, a hired thug from the year 1985 who stumbles upon a time machine that throws him into the year 20XX and breaks, leaving him trapped in a different time. When a man named Doc Choc mistakes him for a time-travelling hero, The Player must help him complete his own time machine and protect it from the hands of Dr. Von Buttnick and the crooked technology corporation he works for. The future is just as unfriendly as the past, if not more so – The Player must confront not only Dr. Von Buttnick but also his old crime boss, the Theftropolis police and miscellaneous thugs.
The Player’s quest to hunt down components for Doc Choc’s time machine progresses in a mission-based fashion, but is far less straightforward than one would expect. Each segment throws The Player into crazy and unexpected situations – one second you’re hunting down an item for Doc Choc, and in the next you’re riding around town in a rocket-powered vehicle with your future self, delivering newspapers or throwing hobos in the back of a garbage truck. These tangents are very reminiscent of classic Saturday morning cartoons, and are complemented by handfuls of 80’s pop culture references, from Mega Man 2 to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and everywhere in between. There’s something for everyone to laugh at in Retro City Rampage DX, if not via the references themselves then by the goofy manner in which they’re presented. While some games lose their sense of self in nostalgia and references, Retro City’s style of presentation makes them second nature, and as such the game is able to forge its own identity despite the many games and franchises it emulates and calls back to.
Gameplay & Controls
It’s no secret that Retro City Rampage was inspired by the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and is designed around many of its mechanics. If you want to travel around Theftropolis quickly you can simply walk up to a vehicle, toss out the driver and go on a wild hit-and-run. The player can get tipsy off “milk”, be chased by the police, head over to the arcade, change their hairstyle, gamble and much more. Just as the variety in gameplay of the Grand Theft Auto franchise is a huge draw, so is the case here. There are a plethora of weapons, vehicles, missions and bonus minigames to discover, and revealing any of them here would ruin the fun of discovering them within the game.
The Player uses a variety of different weapons to fight, and although the first few missions will have you convinced that success can be achieved by running in with guns blazing, others will require you to be a bit more strategic, sometimes even sneaky. The game allows you to run for cover and shoot from behind barricades, lock on to targets, or sneak by them if you so choose. It even includes a jumping mechanic that adds a new layer of strategy to combat. When you’re under fire, you can hop into the air to try and avoid bullets, then go in for a stomp attack to finish off your foe. It requires a surprising amount of finesse to accomplish successfully, and in later missions you’ll find that your superhuman vertical can give you quite an advantage. Once you’ve beaten the game and are trying to obtain high scores in the time attack levels, a good strategy can make all the difference.
In Story Mode, the player is able to take on different missions around Theftropolis with varying goals – stealing TVs and selling them to pawn shops, racing around the city trying to run over as many pedestrians as possible, or sneaking into an art gallery to steal a valuable painting. The game’s many mechanics truly shine in these stages, as some of them require thought and strategy to complete. Additional missions are more focused on creating as much chaos as possible in a given amount of time, and “Free Roaming Mode” provides the player with unlimited cash to go on a crazy, destructive rampage. While these can be good fun, they’re a lot more mindless than the story mode’s meatier missions, and lack longevity in the form of online or friend-based leaderboards. This is alleviated somewhat by being able to compare scores on Miiverse, but in the end the game’s main story is the true selling point of the title.
Additionally, the DX version of Retro City Rampage adds in all the bug fixes from the PC version as well as gameplay tweaks and new features that make this the definitive version of the game. Notable changes include being able to select weapons quickly via the touch screen, more opportunities to escape from cops and a map on the lower screen that makes navigating Theftropolis easier than ever before. Perhaps the biggest draw, however, is simply the ability to play it on the go. Retro City Rampage DX is versatile in that it can be played both in five minute bursts and for hours on end.
Visuals & Sound
Keeping a consistent pixel art style can be very difficult to manage, especially with a game of this scope that incorporates so many different franchises, but Retro City Rampage DX does an excellent job of portraying its characters in a simplistic albeit gorgeous art style that still makes it very easy to identify them. I was walking through the first mission when all of a sudden four green, amphibious thugs emerged from the sewer and I immediately knew what the game was referencing.
Retro City Rampage DX boasts an incredible soundtrack full of catchy chiptune pieces. Just as with other aspects of the game some of them seem familiar, as the artists attempt to emulate classic video game themes, while others are completely original. The soundtrack is worth listening to you, even separately from the game, and you can check it out right here. The sound effects help to bring the pixelated world to life, from the angry grunts NPCs make as you throw them from their vehicles to the 8-bit yelling an enemy makes when it spots you. If you don’t play Retro City Rampage: DX with the sound up, you’re missing out on an important part of what makes the game so great.
Final Score: 9/10
Retro City Rampage DX is a fantastic game with an awesome open world to explore, great gameplay mechanics and handfuls of references to some of the best movies and video games of the 1980s. Along with bug fixes, gameplay tweaks, new features and the benefit of portability, this is the definitive version of the game and is well worth your money.
+ Great art style
+Story reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon
+ Gameplay with a surprising amount of variety and depth
+ Excellent callbacks to classic game franchises and pop culture
+ Tons of gameplay variety
- No online leaderboards leave little incentive for gathering high scores
Check out a ton of screens right here: