Retro City Rampage Review

I’ve got love for you, if you were born in the Eighties

An old school treat for gamers has been released on XBLA to kick off 2013. What better way to look to the future, by pretending to still be in the past!

It seems that the old days are coming back in a big way. Aviator glasses, leggings, and preppy outfits are clothes of choice among the younger generations, not to mention some of the unusual hairstyles that can be seen on the street. The music is still being sampled in modern tracks. But it’s the games that we care about. Pac-man, Frogger, and Super Mario are just a few names from a vast array of games that are still played by many today. Brian Provinciano (of Vblank Entertainment) has a love for the old days that seems to run deep, as he has near enough single-handedly developed Retro City Rampage, which is a treasure trove of the past.

RCR is not a re-release, but is a new old game (make sense of that one…). The idea lightbulb originally switched on back in 2002, and Provinciano started to develop an 8-bit version of GTAIII. In 2007, this was changed into a completely new entity. Modelled on the old arcade cabinets, the game isn’t widescreen, with the edges filled in with the cabinet ‘edge’, included sticker instructions such as how to score points. This is on the screen as soon as the game is fired up, and is a nice touch that sets the tone brilliantly. Even better, is that the setting for this can be changed, so it can take on the appearance of an old TV, or a Game Boy for example, all with matching colour palettes. This visual style carries on into the actual game, and a pixellated paradise. Anyone who has owned a SNES, or anything older will be taken back straight away.

The game itself is basically a complete parody of the last few decades. The Player (as the playable character is called) is a standard thug for hire, and after a robbery, ends up sent to another time (the year 20XX). A basic plot, but arcade games are known for the gameplay, not the stories. In GTA fashion, missions are available at various points in the city (when playing story mode). These mostly seem to revolve around ‘go here, steal this, come back’. It is only in self-depreciating fashion, as that is how many games used to be. Throw in a few racing type sections, platform levels and gambling areas, and RCR has many styles under one roof. There is also a challenge mode (unlocked through playing the story), and a free mode for the hell raisers. The GTA influence also shows in the city, as the view is almost the same as the top down style from the early games. The controls are equally simple, with the left stick controlling movement, and right stick controlling the shooting or punching direction. Pick up and play is an understatement.

The main thing that everyone has been talking about with this game is the old references. It is safe to say that every major franchise from the 80’s and 90’s has been mentioned. The Player ends up travelling through time in a time travelling phone box, before being collected by a ‘Doc’ driving a time travelling Delorean. Weapons training is received from a character who bears a striking resemblance to a certain ‘Snake’, and one of the enemies is a Dr. Von Buttnik. Even the shop to change your characters facial appearance is called MJ’s Face ‘R’ Us! Gamestyle’s personal favourite was during a mission where The Player was instructed to steal certain vehicles in the city. One particularly stylish black number called K2600 had an onboard computer. As The Player enters the car, he is greeted by the message ‘Boss Hoff has left a cheeseburger on the floor for your enjoyment’. Anyone under the age of 21 will probably miss a lot of these references, but everyone over that age will be laughing away and desperately trying to remember what film/game the reference is from. Modern games haven’t been overlooked though, as ‘Splosion Man and Super Meat Boy are both mini games in RCR, in 8 bit format! After completing these, the characters become playable, and can be used in free mode.

The effort that has gone into this game is clear from the start. This game was made by a very small team, and mostly by one man, so tip your hats to them.  In terms of playability though, it is basic, and even tedious at points. But that is what it is trying for. Old games were repetitive, and painfully difficult, and RCR is just trying to replicate this. RCR is meant to be a trip down memory lane for the older generation. Those people who still dust off their Mega Drive collection for a go every now and then, knowing that they own better games and consoles these days. The term often used is ‘so bad, it’s good’. But the younger players will miss the references, and will probably see the game as terrible.  This is a game where the age rating should definitely be taken into consideration.