Retro City Rampage is a difficult game to describe. Only an hour into the top-down shooter, players will be running over pedestrians on the streets of Theftropolis, jumping through pipes like Mario and working with an 8-bit version of Solid Snake. If that’s too many video games rolled into one, there’s more. Retro City Rampage is not just an ode to classic games. Players will also be traveling through time in the DeLorean a la Marty McFly and in a phone booth like Bill and Ted. Excellent.
From video games to pop culture, Retro City Rampage is an entertaining tribute to the late 80s to mid 90s. The game was in development for several years, originally starting as a homebrew project titled Grand Theftendo. Developer Brian Provinciano created his own NES development tools in order to avoid the limitations of the original NES development software. He later switched development to the PC. A pixel artist would be brought on board further along in development in addition to Leonard “FreakyDNA” Paul, Jake “Virt” Kaufman and Matt “Norrin Radd” Creamer to compose the chiptune soundtrack.
Retro City Rampage puts players in control of a generic character ironically named Player. The henchman travels to the future and, to get back, must find parts to the DeLorean-like vehicle for Doc Choc. This leads to various missions working for 8-bit parodies of Solid Snake, the Joker, Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell and the Ghost Busters. While Player must defeat several bosses to travel back to his time, the final boss battle is a frustratingly difficult encounter with the evil Dr. Von Buttnick (an obvious reference to Sonic the Hedgehog’s rival, Dr. Robotnik).
Along the 50 story missions, players will be shooting enemies, plowing down pedestrians and playing mini-games reminiscent of classic titles. Gameplay mainly involves top-down shooting, which does not work entirely well. While the automatic lock-on feature and twin-stick style aiming system make shooting relatively easy, trying to take cover or avoid enemy fire is a difficult annoyance. In addition, players can destroy enemies by jumping and stomping on them like Mario. This is the best way to survive large groups of enemies.
Gamers can die while playing Retro City Rampage but are not tied down a specific number of lives that can increase or decrease. However, the game does keep track of how many lives are used during the story mode. That number trends upwards while playing the game’s platforming missions, which can cause extreme frustration. Underwater tasks are overwhelming as even the slightest mistake can lead to immediate death. A nice tribute to the Xbox Live Arcade hit ‘Splosion Man is included, but passing the mission proves to be a daunting task. V-Blank even found the difficulty to be so high, the developer added the ability to skip the level and move on to the next part of the game.
Retro City Rampage is at its best while performing the more simple driving and free roaming tasks. Theftropolis is an environment unlike any other and being able to explore it provides for plenty of entertainment. Local businesses have humorous names that reference old school pop culture. Arcade challenges, which can be played as they are encountered while exploring the city or accessed through the menus, allow players to wreak havoc on Theftropolis and its inhabitants.
Turning on Retro City Rampage is like going back in time, which is ironic because much of the story involves time travel. Before entering the city of Theftropolis, be prepared to ditch the polygons for pixels in one of the most beautiful open-world 8-bit settings ever in a game. It probably helps that the game was made long after open-world 8-bit settings were popular. Nevertheless, Theftropolis is a rich city full of vibrant colors. Tall buildings cast a shadow on crowded streets filled with pedestrians in a city that never sleeps. It may not be as grand as games in the Pokemon and Zelda franchises but Theftropolis is a city that truly feels alive. Vehicles are distinctly unique and simplistic cutscenes add to the nostalgic vibe.
Paul, Kaufman and Creamer created the soundtrack for Retro City Rampage, which sounds exactly like the classics of yesteryear. Although the music is completely original, it takes cues from games like Paperboy. As the in-game situation changes, the music will also change accordingly. If it was not being played with an Xbox 360 controller, the soundtrack could fool players into thinking they were controlling Link. With hours of music content created for the game, tracks are not often repeated. Sound effects are also accurate and
Retro City Rampage is a top-down shooter that is totally over the top. While difficult missions can cause extreme frustration, it is the kind of nostalgic anger that rekindles one’s love for classic video games. Who didn’t experience Super Mario without losing many lives at one particular area or two? V-Blank combines the retro style and references with the humor and excitement of the Grand Theft Auto series. While various games and genres are rolled into one, Retro City Rampage comes up short in each category. Where the game really shines is in the free roam and arcade challenges. The beautiful 8-bit setting takes center stage and the game’s main missions should encourage more open-world madness.
Retro City Rampage is available now for the Xbox 360 through the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points.