As you’ve probably noticed at this point, Retro City Rampage is a homage to the video games and culture of the ’80s and ’90s, that was originally intended to run on the classic NES hardware. This throwback goes deeper than its 8-bit visuals and chiptune soundtrack, though. Much deeper, in fact.
From the characters and their dialogue, right through to the actual gameplay itself, Retro City Rampage is absolutely cram-packed with references to the games of a time gone by, and the game not once feels stale or repetitive as a result. One moment you’ll be speeding through the top-down, open world in a car you’ve recently hijacked, mowing down pedestrians Grand Theft Auto-style; the next you’ll be playing an officially licensed BIT.TRIP RUNNER or Super Meat Boy mini-game – with cheeky references to other series thrown in at every possible opportunity.
There are a couple of modern additions to the core game, which subtly streamline the experience and make it feel unique. For example, there’s a basic cover system which, predictably, allows you to crouch behind certain objects to avoid enemy fire. Choosing to ignore it won’t necessarily hinder your progress, but it’s a nice feature to have nonetheless. You can also jump over an enemy’s head and push the Y button (on the Classic Controller) to stomp them, adding variety to the combat – which already features a plethora of projectiles, explosives and melee weaponry.
As Retro City Rampage was originally a 2D “demake” of the 3D Grand Theft Auto games, the final product clearly owes a lot to Rockstar’s blockbuster franchise. Maybe it’s just personal preference, though, but Retro City Rampage feels like a much better game than any of the 2D GTAs – which says a lot considering this modern take on the genre was developed almost single-handedly by Vblank Entertainment’s founder. The map is decidedly smaller, and the graphics are technically two console generations behind GTA‘s, but Retro City Rampage is all the more action-packed and charming for it.
The story, meanwhile, is a parody of Back to the Future. Without spoiling too much, one mission sees you stealing a “Flax Combobulator” for Doc Choc, although the game’s antagonist is named Dr. Von Buttnick, and the device that Player (that’s yourself) uses to travel to 20XX is clearly Doctor Who’s tardis. These three references are a mere fraction of the total seen in the game, and to even attempt to list them all would be so crazy that even the game’s developer gave up.
With so many references, parodies and spoofs, then, Retro City Rampage ran a serious risk of feeling disconnected and without a personality. Somehow, Vblank has pulled it off with style, and released a cohesive game that stands on its own two feet as an extremely enjoyable retro throwback, with in-jokes that make the experience so much more enjoyable for those old enough to ‘get’ them.
Retro City Rampage (WiiWare) Verdict
If we had to pick a fault with Retro City Rampage, it would be with the slight difficulty spike as the game approaches its final sequences. Bigger, faster and more powerful swarms of enemies sometimes conflict with the minimalistic controls, although it could be argued that this is an authentic feature of the games it draws inspiration from. Aside from that, then, there’s nothing else we can reasonably criticise Retro City Rampage for. It achieves everything it set out to achieve in a stylish manner, and is a must-have download for anyone that’s ever considered calling themselves a gamer.
Originally published on NintendoInvader.com