Retro City Rampage Review
Quick: What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “indie?”
Artsy? Pretentious? Droll?
That may be true of a lot of the titles clogging up Steam, XBLA, and PSN, but not so with VBlank’s Retro City Rampage. If anything, it sets out to be the anti-indie game, bringing as much destruction as possible into eight little bits. Taking a page (or a chapter) from the Grand Theft Auto series, Retro City Rampage imagines what an open-world game might if it were released back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System or Commodore 64. The structure is the same, complete with an open-world map chock full of missions and minigames available at your leisure. Sure, you can count the number of colors used to make up the world, but this helps to make the game stand out even more. Well, more than a world full of brown, anyway.
If the standard nondescript world and character models don’t strike your fancy, you can’t blame the game for a lack of options. Character customization comes with some nice perks (and flat-top hairdos), but the real joy comes in playing around with the different graphical filters and borders. Scanlines, borders, and even a red-and-black Virtual Boy filter round out a detailed list of graphical tweaks you can make to achieve the perfect Retro City Rampage experience.
Of course, releasing a game in this day and age means that all of the modern-day staples need to be there as well. Unlimited lives are just the start: between the lock-on targeting, achievement lists, and a cover system plucked straight out of Gears of War, you can tell that this game was not made back in the 80s. Rather, its forgiving nature and single difficulty setting stray away from Nintendo hard, and more into pure enjoyment for all play styles.
That’s not to say Retro City Rampage has forgotten its roots. Action, not bowling, is at the forefront here, and the game reminds you at every opportunity to go out there and cause mass destruction. When whole missions are dedicated to running over as many pedestrians as you can, tact and formalities are thrown out of the window in favor of a high score. After all, that’s why your score tally takes up more of the screen than anything else.
Of course, perhaps Retro City Rampage’s greatest hook is its ties to days gone by. It’s not enough to play like a title from the past; this game is only satisfied when every 80s property is brought together to make the ultimate gaming universe. Within 10 minutes of starting a new game file, I spotted more than 10 references to games, TV shows, movies, and pop culture celebrities. If a “spot the references” drinking game ever came out for this title, I can guarantee you that anybody with a pair of nostalgia goggles will be plastered in a New York minute.
Retro City Rampage knows what it wants to be, and throws in everything but the kitchen sink to get there. It’s old-school, it’s witty, and it manages to be familiar while still being minty fresh. Any of the indie game “purists” out there that say otherwise deserves a rocket to the face.