Retro City Rampage

Developer: VBlank Entertainment
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Platforms: PC, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita

Retro City Rampage is a game full of references in an 8-bit style. While its intention is clearly to bring back the feel of an older style of gaming, there are several large issues that get in the way.

Wonderful meaningless 8-bit violence

The story revolves around a criminal who works in a crime syndicate under the name of “The Jester.” Through a stroke of a convenient plot device, the player gets transported back in time, narrowly avoiding capture by the local police. From there, Retro City Rampage takes on a Grand Theft Auto feel as the player moves around the 8-bit metropolis (dubbed “Theftropolis”), completing various quests. There is little plot to go on besides that, other than the vague idea that completing questlines will lead to something desirable. For the most part, there is very little logical connectivity between quests designed to cram in the video game references, for which Retro City Rampage is known.

While some of these references are humorous or clever, many more are not. Robocop becomes “Bionicop” and Doc Brown becomes “Doc Choc”, which brings up the next point: there is far too much Back to the Future referenced in this game. The Dolorean, the name “Biff”, and a variety of other mentions make the game more a “Back to the Future” game with other references along for the ride as much as anything else.

Who hasn’t wanted to squish people with a giant monkey?

Retro City Rampage plays very much like an old 8-bit game, having simplistic controls and quirky, pixelated art. However, it also comes with the irritating and unavoidable difficulty of those old games. Playing Retro City rampage, one will often find that while some of the game is easy, certain sections and mini-games have to be replayed dozens of times. Check points are few and far between, meaning that sections that have only one difficult aspect can become incredibly frustrating and annoying. Of course, if the player is one who enjoys such challenge and has enough patience to withstand it then this game should be satisfying. I had to stop when I was forced to tail “Biffman” through the city on-foot, while simultaneously having to drink coffee in-game to stop my character from falling asleep, also having to order food, and not being allowed to get too close or too far behind. Another 20 iterations and maybe I could have completed it, but by then all joy in the game would have been replaced by jarring stress.

The exposition is also very tedious. Even with the ability to skip through conversations there are paragraphs upon paragraphs of poor humor to wade through for an occasional gem here or there, or a piece of information relevant to the plot. While this may be another great imitation of the old 8-bit genre, even the classicists probably don’t enjoy the replication.

One strength of the game is the music, which combines the old synthesized aesthetic that gamers know and love. This may not make up for the quality of gameplay, but it certainly does help set the scene in a better light.While this game may have many flaws, it must also be understood that for a solo indie venture it could have been worse. The hundreds of references clearly target a specific audience, and perhaps those gamers may enjoy this game immensely. So to those individuals, this game is worth a shot. To the rest of the world, I suggest you save your money for now.

Rating: 2/5

Mentioned games: