In pixelated 4:3 ratio, Retro City Rampage is a game that adult gamers would reminisce about from the late 80’s. Making an impossible list of callbacks to classic pop culture objects throughout video games, movies & other media, RCR puts together a game that every twenty-something or thirty-something’s nostalgic feelings would tingle for.
GOTTA GET BACK IN TIME
80’s Pop Culture - Aspiring from the 8-bit era, Retro City Rampage is a mock-up of the early Grand Theft Auto games mixed in with 80's pop culture references, creating an experience that only the older gamer generations could truly enjoy. Featuring tributes to Contra, Metal Gear Solid, Mega Man, Saved By the Bell, Batman and so much more, any gamer would lived and breathed or loves 80’s culture needs to play this game. Playing through RCR multiple times, I’m sure you’ll pick up on new things each play through creating a lot of replayability.
Nolan’s Arcade - For those of you who don’t know me that well, I’m a big fan of classic arcade cabinets and when I found out about Nolan’s Arcade (probable tribute to Nolan Bushnell), I freaked out. I would have loved to see at least a Pac-Man clone but the three games that were featured there were actually a lot of fun. Featuring a mash-up between Nintendo’s first 3D console and Team Meat’s successful game, Virtual Meat Boy throws you back on a classic 8-bit racing track as Meat Boy tries get to Bandage Girl. In classic Virtual Boy fashion though, the game is completely red & black just as all games for the failed console were back in the day. The best part is if you have a 3D enabled TV, you can actually play the mini-game in 3D.
For those fans of the music indie scene, Bit.Trip: Retro City offers a mix-up of the simple Bit.Trip gameplay while also mixing in some of the Pitfall alligators. With the Epic Meal Time button masher, I was really impressed with the additional work put into the arcade, giving the game a bit of extra longevity.
Looks Like a Classic - For everyone below the age of 10, there used to be TV's that used a classic projection screen technology that is shaped in a standard 4:3 ratio screen (square-like) than the widescreen 16:9 ratio (rectangular). In order to fit the game on the TV correctly, two side panels showing off the weapons and ways to score points fill up the adjacent edges of the screen that would have remained black on widescreen televisions if played by old consoles, calling back to the arcade era where such hints gave arcade goers an idea of what the game might be about.
From all of the buildings, weapons and cars, RCR is one of the best-looking retro style games on the current generation of consoles, but the graphical detailing of the world and all the characters created what would have made Retro City Rampage an amazingly, fun immersive experience if it were still the 80’s and if the game was actually fun to play longer that 15 minutes at a time.
KEEP THE PAST IN THE PAST
Not So “Fun” Factor - As much as I wanted to love the game for its basic mechanics, playing Retro City Rampage just isn’t much fun past the first few hours of nostalgic gameplay. From the always elusive Xbox 360 non-shooter controls to actual in-game functionality issues, I had a bit of fun going through the story bits and pop culture references stuck inside this 80’s time capsule but the game felt straight to the point making me think that the developer was also stuck in the capsule since the 80’s and was only allowed to create this game.
For instance, the shark tank puzzle caused me to take some pain meds after attempting the puzzle on both the analog stick and directional pad for the Xbox 360 controller. After playing it on the PS3 version, you realize that such a classic game is better to be played on either a keyboard or the Playstation 3 controller. Despite how systematically I would get the timing down for the ‘boss fight’, I never seemed to get the timing right. Some missions, you go through guns blazing having a great time but other missions all of a sudden slow down seeming to have been designed for later in the game.
Difficulty Spikes - With starting at the beginning of the game, you feel that typical getting introduced into how the game mechanically works. It feels great and all but about 30 minutes in, you face the Bionic Commando boss that just seems to have no explanation of how to beat him. Maybe, that’s a part of the punishment that Vblank Entertainment intended for with Retro City Rampage as games during the 80’s are considered much tougher than contemporary ones. Unfortunately, you don’t really feel an accomplishment by beating that boss or any other; you just feel a need to get through the game to get to more 80’s references.Non-Stop Tributes and References - If you haven’t gotten it yet by reading this far into the review, Retro City Rampage is a classic retro 8-bit 80’s experience. Despite how annoying it maybe for me to remind you time and time again, the way the story flows with the non-stop tributes and references you just feel like the writing is just trying to make you feel like you are back there in the 80’s playing this game.
That’s great and all but a balance needs to be made for actual interesting storytelling. I’m sure I’ll get a comment from someone saying you missed the point that the game is supposed to be straight to the point fun. Hearing about certain characters and certain icons that haven’t been heard of or seen since 30 years ago isn’t my idea of having a good gaming experience or even storytelling. While a break in the game with side missions broke up the main storyline enough, I just didn’t feel like it was completely balanced to create a desire to sit down and play the game through in just one sitting or even in half a dozen.
Gamers that love homages to their 80's childhood are going to eat Retro City Rampage up. Despite looking like an appealing GTA clone for the 8-bit era, you may want to be wary with your purchase and try out the demo. With difficult controls and difficulty spikes between going from mission to mission, I can’t go out and recommend it to everyone
RCR will just seem to be some filling into what seemed to be a great year for indie games. Starting with development back in 2002 you can tell that the title had great potential, but after a decade-long development Vblank Entertainment didn’t polish the game enough to be just slightly above average.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*