Published on October 14th, 2012 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
Retro City Rampage Review
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
Retro City Rampage feels as if it was made especially for nerds and gamers who loved the early era of video games. The game also adequately mirrors the mystique of retro gaming. This PC Indie from VBlank Entertainment incorporates many pop culture icons and parodies to deliver an original and entertaining gaming experience. Just about every gamer who plays it will be hooked, and it has that pixellated charm associated with early NES graphics while keeping invigorating–and quite hilarious–action that keeps you coming back for more.
RCR is a free-roam action arcade game set in the vein of traditional gaming classics, and uses a mix of elements and aspects from a plethora of classic and modern titles–as well as some television/movie references–and mashes them together to to create a memorable and unique gameplay experience. With its quirky sense of humor and relentless pace, this game will have you grinning as you ruthlessly gun down enemies and destroy everything in a city-wide slaughter spree.
In RCR, players start off as a renegade henchman who’s employed by the nefarious Jester (an obvious parody of Batman’s Joker), and carries out armed robberies and other dastardly deeds for cash. During a particular heist, the main character–who bears the classic name of “Player 1”–discovers a mysterious time machine in the shape of a telephone booth straight out of “Doctor Who.” The time machine transports our anti-hero to the futuristic Theftopolis, where he is mistaken by a brainiac scientist (in the guise of Doc Brown from “Back to the Future”) as the time-traveling hero.
Contrary to many games, RCR pits gamers as the anti-hero antagonist who steals everything in sight, with carnage always following in his wake. Pretty much anywhere Player 1 goes something in the city is guaranteed to explode.
Right of the bat, gamers will feel as if they’re playing a classic NES cartridge on their favorite 8-Bit console–which is seven different types of awesome in itself. Retro City Rampage takes everything gamers love about classic gaming and seamlessly blends those aspects together with hilarity and action, combining pixellated visuals with old-school gaming sensibilities. The basic mechanics are akin to the early Grand Theft Auto games with the traditional top-down view and the crazy explosive action as you gun down enemies and speed through the streets in a stolen vehicle.
There are three different game modes to choose from: Story Mode, Arcade Challenges Mode and Free Roaming Mode. Story Mode tells the tale of Player 1’s journey through time to Theftopolis, focusing on his adventure throughout the game’s main quest. Arcade Challenges Mode gives an authentic coin-op experience where gamers have to achieve certain High Scores, wreaking total havoc onto the city. Free Roaming Mode is just what it sounds like: a free play with no set objectives–just steal a car, crash into some pixellated city-folk, and evade the coppers in a high speed chase.
RCR‘s mechanics are surprisingly innovative and dynamic–they’re not the broken, glitchy controls some NES games exhibit. In terms of the graphics and visuals, RCR is definitely a classic, and its controls and mechanics are very well designed and are fluidly reflexive and responsive. One of the best features is the cover system where players can use nearby objects for cover, something that’s right out of the old Time Crisis light-gun arcade game.
This game encourages you to wreak as much havoc as human possible and keeps track of the damage you’ve done as the High Score. Certain things like knocking down–and killing–multiple pedestrians with a vehicle can net you score bonuses, as well as blowing up multiple cars at the same time. Pretty much anything that causes total mayhem will earn you a bigger score, rewarding gamers for creative rampages.
There are even special missions called Slaughter Sprees which dish out collective bonuses and rewards, adding to the unbidden chaos that goes on in the city of Theftopolis. Another hilarious feature in the game is being able to pick up people and throw the wandering NPCs. Didn’t you always want to play catch using a random granny as a baseball? Well in RCR, you can!
Destroying half the city has its consequences, however. Just like GTA‘s star system, RCR features a Threat Meter that raises when the police catch you doing dastardly deeds like stealing cars, gunning down grannies, or playing tag with pedestrians while driving. The worse the deed, the higher the threat level goes up, and when it goes up all the way, that’s when the tanks start rolling out!
The user interface and HUD are well designed and can be customized within the main menu. The mini-map is incredibly useful, and the game keeps the standard on-screen warnings and indications to help with navigation. Just like in GTA, you aren’t invincible, and Player 1 will die if his health bar bar is depleted. Players take damage in all the basic ways: getting shot, getting run over, etc.
There are more than 40 vehicles featured in the game, each with their distinct visual style and flair–and they’re all ripe for the pickin’! The wide array of vehicles range from firetrucks to sports cars, motorbikes and even a military tank that just destroys everything in its path. Players can even change radio stations to listen to awesome chiptunes and old-school beats, making the game not only a treat for the eyes but for the ears as well.
Driving in RCR can take some getting used to. I personally think it was intentionally programmed to be frustrating, mirroring the driving controls in many early NES games. It’s not as bad as Roger Rabbit or Dick Tracy, but the car sort of snaps onto the road and it takes a bit to get adept at the controls. I find it to be hilarious and fun to crash into everything, despite the fact that eventually the car will explode after taking too much damage, but that’s what this game is about: carnage and bit-style explosions.
Players build up their piggy banks by collecting coins from killed pedestrians, enemies and pretty much everything you destroy, from vehicles to cityfolk. Coins can be spent on food from vending machines to replenish health or to repair damaged cars at Pay 4 Spray garages. Players can also use their hard earned cash on recreational betting at the Spades to Steal Casino, or play classic arcade games at Nolan’s Arcade–an obvious homage to the legendary Nolan Bushnell, inventor of Pong and founder of Atari.
The weapons in Retro City Rampage are pretty much responsible for its awesomeness: from baseball bats to rocket launchers, each weapon arms gamers with a tool of destruction that is extremely satisfying and guaranteed to please. Blow up a whole screen full of baddies and cars with a few well-placed rockets, or gun down the pesky police with rampant machine gun fire–pretty much every weapon has a dastardly purpose.
Player 1 utilizes both melee weapons (bats, golf clubs, a mop and even a scythe) and firearms (pistols, shotguns, uzis and rocket launchers) each of which have their own distinct range and power. Randomly sucker-punching passer-bys can be a good past-time as well; you don’t always have to break out the big guns!
One of the most unique features about Retro City Rampage is its multitude of visual settings. Players can customize their color scheme under the Options menu to change the styles, making for quite a variety of vibrant colors and settings including an all-green scheme or a bright neon look. Players can change the TV Color Mode and the TV Simulation, which borders the screen and even has an arcade setting that mirrors the screen of a coin-op machine.
This game has its fair share of “lol” moments and is infused with a general sense of comedy, making nearly every second of gameplay entertaining and crazy. The action is relentless and the game pokes fun at a ton of iconic characters from pretty much everything that’s nerdy, making it sort of a giant inside joke for all geeks and nerds.
The classic sprite-styled visuals and nostalgic soundtrack come together to transport gamers back to the glory days of coin-op arcade machines, Atari, Master System and NES. The radio music and sound effects are perfectly crafted to bring that authentic and distinct retro sound, and really makes you feel as if the game has been around for decades.
Retro City Rampage is a hilariously fun, parody-infused nostalgic journey that takes players back to the golden days of gaming. It heralds a new age of Indies, focusing on classic retro game mechanics and those instantly recognizable and distinctly enjoyable bit-style graphics. Having been in development for over two years by VBlank Entertainment’s Brian Provinciano, Retro City Rampage proves that great things come to those who wait.
The game truly lives up to its name and defines retro arcade action, mashing together a huge variety of pop culture icons from comics and video games–everything from Batman, “Back to the Future,” Grand Theft Auto and Atari–in a memorable and hilarious string of parodies.
+ Classic old-school graphics
+ Traditional arcade-style game mechanics
+ Hilarious parodies
+ Fast-paced explosive action
+ Nostalgic factor
+ Overall satisfying gameplay
– Speedy cutscenes