Review: Retro City Rampage
There’s an old adage that I hear from time to time: you can’t be all things to all people. Well, Brian Provinciano and the crew at VBlank Entertainment decided to do just that, and for the most part they succeeded.
Welcome to Retro City Rampage, a title that is so influenced by multiple games, movies, and music, that it’s not hard to see the developer’s passion for these mediums. Ever want to play Grand Theft Auto and steal the Ninja Turtle van while completing missions for Doc Brown to retrieve time machine parts stolen by Dr. Robotnik and the Joker, just to get interrupted by your time-traveling self from a few hours in the future, who arrives just to exclaim, “Sixty-nine, dude!” right before you meet the god-like John Romero and acquire his hairstyle?
Retro City Rampage is a mash-up of multiple game and movie genres, set in a beautifully-drawn 8-bit world. The Player (yes, that is really your name) is tasked with helping multitudes of familiar faces perform tasks that loosely draw from their own ethos. The inter-twining of stories from games and movies you remember works wonderfully. Couple all of these nods and references to other works with the general “move from mission-to-mission” structure of a Grand Theft Auto game, and Retro City Rampage becomes surprisingly pick-up-and-play. See a car? Steal it, destroy it, leave it. See a civilian? Punch him, shoot him, hit him with a guitar. Several buildings allow the Player to enter and interact with the interiors. There are mini-games sprinkled throughout RCR, as are collectibles. All of this exists in one game while vaguely-familiar chip tunes play in the background.
It’s important to point out that RCR features cross-play between the PS3 and Vita titles. A simple save-and-load operation later, and you’re back where you left off on a completely different console. It’s great to see the feature-complete title transfer flawlessly between the two devices, however, the character sprites are extremely small. This being said, I had trouble enough keeping track of where I was on a large screen. This difficulty only escalated on an even smaller Vita screen. A simple cross-play game save later, and I was back playing on my television. Smooth, clean, and quick.
Around every corner in Retro City Rampage is a new in-joke or reference that brought a grin to my lips. But here is where the title slips a bit. I was born in 1981, so I understand most of the game’s references. Brief nods at Knight Rider, Troll dolls, and even the anger-inducing underwater level from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bring with them a flood of memories…my personal memories. I began to realize I was viewing the title through rose-tinted glasses. Without these memories, Retro City Rampage could easily slip away as just another “de-make” of a game.
Question: how do you not become overwhelmed by nostalgia playing a game built on nostalgia? Answer: you let your 13-year-old stepson play it. Less than 10 minutes in, he asked if he could stop playing. He didn’t get 99% of the jokes, the visuals were “boring”, and he felt it was repetitive. This led to the realization that I love Retro City Rampage because it encompasses my childhood. It’s everything I remember and some things I’ve forgotten all about. But again, without these points of reference, you may want to consider looking elsewhere for your gaming kicks. Otherwise, get ready for an 88-mph trip down memory lane in the best way possible.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Large 8-bit world
- Millions of references to my childhood
- Great cast of cameos
What I Dislike:
- Very small sprites
- Difficulty spikes near the end