Retro City Rampage has been out a while, originally released on my birthday in 2012, five years later it’s arrived on the Nintendo Switch. Here’s a review of the ever-popular game from VBlank Entertainment.
If you’re unfamiliar with, what is now quite a famous indie game, Retro City Rampage is an open world action game with an 8-Bit style, originally beginning life as retro de-make of GTA3, it eventually morphed into its own game. Retro City Rampage is more than a game. It ascends beyond gameplay and becomes a pastiche, a love letter to action movies and 80’s pop culture. The reference per second counter is off the scale, especially early on where the story is so nonsensical that, although you’re not particularly engrossed by it, you still want to see what ridiculous thing happens next. Everything happens so quick fire that it’s incredibly difficult to follow and I’m positive that much of the humour passed me by, but there’s so much of it you’ll definitely get a laugh every now and again.
The game takes place in the open world city of Theftropolis from, mostly, a top down perspective similar to the original Grand Theft Auto games. You can choose whether to head to the location of the main story mission which asks to to find parts of a time machine, or maybe you can dabble in some side missions, you have total freedom in that regard. Personally I enjoyed doing a bit of both as, even though there are 60-odd main missions to do, many of them can fly passed and you’ll be done with the main story in just a handful of hours.
What’s sad about the missions though, is that they are basically fetch quests. Go here, get that. I would have liked more inventiveness in this department but since they fly at a million miles an hour you don’t really stop to notice what you’re actually doing.
Doing them is fun though, which is probably the most important thing, right? You collect over the top weapons, or steal vehicles and completely annihilate things in your path. You can shoot with the Y button or, as I prefer, use the left analogue stick to make it into a sort of twin stick shooter which is neat. There’s also a lock on system where you’ll keep shooting the same enemy if you hold down the shooting button. Plus something that’s rather ambitious for what is essentially an 8-Bit game, there’s a cover mechanic which is effective and useful for dodging and shooting bad guys. It’s all round a fairly well thought out, user friendly designed game. It’s definitely retro, but not archaic.
There’s also an odd focus on the jumping and stomping mechanic which can be used to take out enemies with bullet proof armour and such. Like I said, it’s odd since it does have it’s use in the game, it just doesn’t really fit it, if that makes sense.
I will say that, to be honest, I do find the gameplay fun but really quite shallow. It all revolves around destruction and violence that’s of little consequence. People die, cars blow up and that’s about it. The different weapon variants are nice, but don’t change much in the grand scheme of things.
There are three initial modes you can play: the story mode, arcade challenges and free roaming. The story mode is what it is and would definitely be your starting point in the game. The arcade challenges add a little spice to proceedings. Most of them need to be unlocked in order to do them, and they involve short burst challenges, usually involving as much murder and destruction as possible. Then there’s free roaming which lets you wander around the city doing anything you want. While it’s nice that it’s here, I only found it to be a decent distraction for a few minutes at the most.
Where Retro City Rampage succeeds is in its presentation. The faux 8-Bit style is glorious to be honest and the colours pop off the Switch’s screen very well. There’s a lot of love and care gone into the sprite designs and little Easter eggs found around the city. It really does give the impression of playing an NES GTA game, which is an impressive feat. The soundtrack also has some excellent contributions from chiptune aficionados which adds the excellently presented package in Retro City Rampage DX.
Retro City Rampage has been released on just about every console going but as the latest release, this Switch version has had some very slight tweaks in order to improve the experience such as difficulty and visuals. Of course it’s been released portably many times before, but the Switch’s large screen makes it the best place for it by far.
Overall, Retro City Rampage is a good, well made game. Obviously a huge passion project for the developer. The gameplay does have its charm, but to be honest, it is quite shallow. But that’s not really why you’d play Retro City Rampage. You play it for the humour and references. It’s the nostalgia waves that hits you time after to time and the “Oooh I know that reference” phrase you’ll be saying constantly. While you may not care for the gameplay or slightly by-the-numbers missions you’ll always have a smirk on your face thanks to the wonderfully presented 80’s pastiche.
Game provided by VBlank Entertainment.