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Retro City Rampage

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Anyone who’s a couple decades old can remember the pixelated days of Mario and Zelda. Games did what they could with limited hardware to create franchises still remembered, and cherished, today. Retro City Rampage has been unleashed on our 2012 PCs aiming to not only inspire us to renew our love for old 8-bit gaming, but also poke fun at it. A lot. Set up like a top-down, open-world crime simulator, Retro City Rampage hopes to embrace the style of our nostalgic NES days while incorporating the hindsight of modern gaming. Attempting to mix the world between modern sensibility and classic entertainment is a welcome concept as long as the execution is just as clever as the idea itself.

The protagonist, a man known only as “Player,” specializes in robbing people blind, blowing up entire city blocks, and shooting a few cops when backed into a corner. One day, our “hero” gets transported forward through time due to some freak accident and is now stuck in the futuristic city of Theftopolis where he robs people blind, blows up entire city blocks, and shoots cops. Luckily, the man responsible for the time machine, Doc, is right by your side helping you find parts to repair the device and send you back to your own time. Main story missions aid in completing this ultimate goal, but there’s still plenty of room to impose your violent tendencies on citizens via side missions or arcade challenges.

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Just Cruisin’

Every character you meet along your journey is a weird one to say the least. Bouts of dialogue serve as delivery devices for social commentary and inside jokes about the 90’s, while the characters themselves are often manifestations of old references as well. Gamedini, who suffers from Meatboyitis, agrees to help you find time machine parts in exchange for codes while Dr. Von Buttnick concerns himself with kidnapping furry animals and stopping you at every turn. The game is literally filled to the brim with nods like these and doesn’t just stop at gaming either. One specific sequence finds Player at a high school meddling with a principal named Mr. Balding and a student who has a habit of saying “Preppie” a lot. If you’re over a certain age, RCR pulls on the nostalgia strings a mile a minute.

The game also doesn’t stop short of taking a jab at the problems with the gaming industry today and the short comings of authoritarian figures who don’t understand the medium. You’ll witness big time “fictional” publishers monologue about how easy it is to cheat indie developers out of money and the main character will constantly play arcade games and make comments like, “After jumping on people’s heads in the game, I want to do it in real life!”

What seemed light hearted at first starts to spread pretty thick as the game continues, making it feel more like a tool for unbridled rants rather than topical humor. While gamers will likely concede that most of the arguments made are agreeable, it starts to detract from the experience and feel like an argument you’re awkwardly stuck in the room hearing.

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Game publisher portrayal

The gameplay in between these instances of commentary is one big homage to the world before 3D gaming, but more specifically to the original Grand Theft Autos. It makes sense considering the project started as an 8-bit, fan remake of GTA3. After some necessary changes to evolve into its own IP, the game still retains a hefty influence from the old iterations of the franchise. Missions often include a busy day at the obituaries and the world is your oyster to get your car painted, buy weapons, get a haircut, bet in a casino, and a slew of other things to help you stay healthy and keep the cops off your buttocks.

Certain aspects of modern gaming are represented, like frequent checkpoints, but the gameplay is mostly stuck in the style it’s parodying. Vehicle controls are quite sloppy and with only 8-way directional control, movement and combat can feel just as awkward as it was 20 years ago. Even though the game mocks how boring certain types of missions are, that doesn’t prevent it from throwing a few of them your way only to find out they’re often just as boring as described.

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Little small talk

Retro City Rampage does a good job of squashing a few annoyances from our past but struggles to completely overcome everything that was tedious and frustrating about it as well. Hilarious dialogue and satire will make you laugh, but can sometimes make you feel like you’re playing a glorified outlet for industry complaints rather than a game. You can wreak havoc on the city between story missions for extra achievements via the game’s arcade challenges, but these are only so fun for so long. It might be worth picking up as a novelty one day, but at $15 dollars on steam, Retro City Rampage is asking for too much and providing too little.

The Good

Nonstop nostalgia | Hilarious writing

The Bad

Social commentary laid on a little too thick | Tedious missions | Sloppy driving control

2.5/5

Little David Galanter grew up in Orange County, CA loving videogames and anything else that repelled girls. After getting his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts, David decided to start contributing his soft silky words to the world via online media. He currently owns a website with a weekly podcast (www.drgman.com) and is a reviewer for Default Prime!
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