Retro City Rampage represents much more than just another niche downloadable title. It’s an ambitious open world project essentially developed by one person. While it’s always commendable to see a person dedicate so much time to one project, the results are not necessarily always favorable. Below, I’ll break down the hits and misses of Retro City Rampage (RCR).
From the boot screen, it was immediately apparent that I was going to be treated to a visual and stylistic treat. The game is presented in an 8-bit, classic fashion that will make old school gamers reminiscent about the good old times. Every item has been painstakingly designed to fit with the style and it really shows. One of the biggest pluses from the game is to simply walk around and see the sights. From the pixelated cutscenes to the various sprites that one encounters, no corners were cut when it came to making the game world feel like it came straight from the cartridge years.
The player (conveniently named Player) is tasked with finding parts to travel back to the future à la Back To The Future. But the parodies don’t stop there; there are jokes and nudges in every corner of the game. Signs, store names, and dialogue are buried with a wealth of jokes pertaining to everything in pop culture from the ’80s and ’90s. Every time I play, I accidently stumble upon an amusing joke. It’s definitely a stark contrast to most games nowadays that are too serious to crack a joke or too focused on delivering an “adult” experience.
Stuck In The Past
The charming looks and witty texts seem fantastic in a demo, but like a relationship, things start going downhill once you get to know the person…err, game. What was once a charming 8-bit style becomes a chore to discern certain objects in the pixelated blob of colors. At first, the jokes got a few chuckles, but the game continues to cram joke after joke around every corner. Like a failed stand-up comedian that throws out a bunch of jokes to see what sticks, I feel overwhelmed by the mediocrity that when a genuinely funny joke comes up, I’m left rather burnt out.
Speaking of the funnies, the game certainly prides itself on providing a lot of laughs, but it gets old fairly fast. It’s neat to see a Back to the Future reference, but it’s simply not entertaining anymore when random references keep getting mentioned. There’s no setup at all, and it all feels like a cheap way to say, “Look, we have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in here! Now laugh!”. Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but you would too if you had to play a game that thinks it’s funnier than it is by churning out jokes every second.
Boring City Rampage
RCR does some bold things to stay with its retro style. It borrows heavily, not only from the cosmetic perspective, but also from the gameplay aspect of older games. Which is why it is disappointing to see RCR take a cue from newer games and pump out an open world for unlimited replayability. Alas, it’s about quality over quantity. The clever story is what sets the game above most, and it languished because I have to travel from one end of the city to the other. The simplistic game mechanics and lack of non-story elements make the open world aspect fun for about 10 minutes.
It’s heartbreaking to see such delicate care and dedication by one person to create a game with extremely solid ideas being ruined by some mechanics that just aren’t fun. Retro City Rampage is worth a look simply for its daring concepts and interesting development. However, don’t expect anything special once the initial novelty wears off.
Review Platform: PlayStation Vita