Title: Retro City Rampage DX
Developer/Publisher: Vblank Entertainment
Release Date: February 6, 2014
Retro City Rampage has been around since 2012, but it’s in 2014 that the 3DS gets this title as Retro City Rampage DX with updated features and with all previous patches included. Judging from developer-publisher Vblank’s insistence in the press notes that the game be played thoroughly before being reviewed, it’s obvious that they’re very proud of it; after it’s caused me to repeatedly play my 3DS until its battery gives out I can say they have every right to be.
At first glance it looks like an 8-bit clone of the first two Grand Theft Auto games, but in reality Retro City Rampage DX is a parody to end all parodies – poking fun at pretty much every classic (and some not-so-classic) game you can think of, from Duck Hunt (the first gag that made me realize that this game was hell-bent on inducing giggles) to Metal Gear to Metal Gear Solid to Halo to more recent successful indie titles like Super Meat Boy.
Whether it’s the characters’ names or an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu in a gameplay sequence, there is hardly a time during the missions that you can not spot a parody one way or another unless you have not played or know of any classic game. Even a non-gamer should get some gags centered on ’80s culture (the ‘Mostly Crew’ haircut, see).
You play as Player, a generic-to-the-max bloke who is of course a relentless criminal. While on a bank robbery gone awry he gets transported in time by a time machine and is met by Doc Choc (who figures him out to be some sort of hero) and wreaks havoc to repair the busted time machine and get back to his own time. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. The humour actually felt a little excessive at the start, although the Common Sense Warning at the start does tell you that the game lampoons a large portion of things in existence.
Unlike a lot of 8-bit games that strip down everything and use nostalgia as an excuse, the gameplay is fun and not bare-bones at all. You can do pretty much everything that, for the sake of a simple explanation, you could do in all the Grand Theft Auto games, Mario, Contra, Metal Gear and all the other games mocked in the gameplay department combined. The missions are fun, and the gameplay is suited to both short bursts and long periods of gameplay. The missions are also diverse – some missions require stealth while one will have you swinging on a rope to avoid being chowed down on by crocodiles.
There is also a free-roam mode and arcade challenges (or rather hacks, some of them were – ‘armed and invincible’, for example) for you to complete – think of the ‘Rampage’ missions in the Grand Theft Auto games. You can visit shops around the city to get haircuts, buy masks (Mr Destructoid and ‘Master Ch(i)ef’ masks are available here), get a tattoo or purchase a skateboard.
There’s an arcade in which you can actually play games like Super Meat Boy-referencing Virtual Meat Boy and a Bit.Trip Runner game. My favourite extra, though, was a game you play on Doc Choc’s NES: ‘ROM City Rampage’ shows how Retro City Rampage would play if it were an unfinished NES game.
The sound is 8-bit too, but isn’t small-scale. You can switch between 8-bit radio stations and for the missions that imitate other games’ gameplay the music certainly helps in the feeling of déjà vu. The visuals are nicely detailed – well, in an 8-bit way. Oddly there is no 3D effect, but the game is certainly good enough to be getting on with and it’s possible we’ll get that in an update.
Retro City Rampage DX is brilliant. It’s unique and it’s just as good whether you play it for five minutes at a time or for hours. The 3DS version is also only two-thirds the price of the original game, so if you haven’t had the pleasure of playing it yet you should go for the 3DS version – it’s one of those games a 3DS owner shouldn’t miss.
Overall Score: 10/10