Retro City Rampage is everything that a gamer from the eight-bit era could want. Created by VBlank Entertainment, Retro City Rampage is a look back into games from former franchises, all washed with a coat of eight-bit sheen. With fantastic references to both movies and video games, Retro City Rampage does a great job trying to pull gamers in by playing into their nostalgia factor. However, is this enough to sustain gameplay, or is this just pandering to a market without adding more substance?
Retro City Rampage doesn’t just live with references; it rolls around in them – not only just old video game references, but movies as well. The game opens up with a reference to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. However, during the same sequence, you go right into a Super Mario Bros. 3 reference with one of the power ups, which goes right into a reference to Back to the Future. What makes all of these work is the fact that none of the references seem forced. Also, it also works regardless if you know exactly what they are referencing, giving the game a fresh feel to it with a nostalgic coat of paint.
The nostalgia doesn’t just brand the game references, but it also affects the way it looks and sounds. The eight-bit look makes it feel like a really deep and innovated NES game, and it also makes the gameplay feel fresh. While at a first glance it feels like an older version of the Grand Theft Auto series, adding different variations of gameplay, like a Paperboy-esqe level or a Metal Gear-inspired stealth mission, give the game a lot of variety.
The music also does a fantastic job of playing up the feel of the game. The artists linked to Retro City Rampage are not only well known names in the video game music scene, bit they do a fantastic job of bringing to life the feel of this eight-bit world. Freaky DNA (composer of such games as NBA Jam and Need for Speed: Hot Pursit 2), virt (Contra 4), and Norrin Radd (an accomplished chiptune musician) do their best to mimic a style that is very reminiscent of a Grand Theft Auto-style game, but with the memorability of an older eight-bit game.
While the references are cool, eventually the tedium of the game takes away from their enjoyment. After going through a number of the story missions, the game just feels stale. It’s sad too, because the game had so much going for it; however, the repetitiveness just takes to much away from it. There can only be so many fetch quests before the formula gets old, and all of the innovated gameplay that makes the game feel new is too far apart to enjoy the game completely. What’s also unfortunate is that the open world becomes less enjoyable as you complete more missions. While it’s cool to see the A-Team and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at first, they seem so commonplace after a while that it’s no longer a novelty to see them. That’s the overall problem with the game: the novelty becomes mundane after a while.
Another thing that adds to the frustration is that fact that you quite often have to ride around in vehicles, which might as well be a hit-or-miss scenario completely. It is so easy to navigate the game on foot; however, more than likely you will have to do a chase mission and need a car, which sometimes feels like navigating with no physics. At first, this works due to Retro City Rampage‘s need for, well, rampage. However, as you get further in the game, missions need you to play more precisely, which again can be hard to do sometimes. Also, some of the missions are actually hindered to the fact that the game is eight-bit. During one mission, you have to catch henchmen and then throw them at a pool full of alligators, all while swinging on a vine. Because of the simple design, it can take a while to get into the flow of the game instead of just enjoying the absurdity of the mission itself.
Retro City Rampage is a game that just misses the mark of being a fantastic game. The retro references and parodies make the game not only feel fresh, but fun. However, gameplay and replay-ability issues hinder what should be a fantastic game for retro game lovers. If you don’t mind repetitiveness or the poor control of the game, Retro City Rampage is a good one to pick up. However, it doesn’t work for an overall crowd.
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We received a review copy of this game from Good Old Games.