Retro City Rampage is beyond crazy.
In the first five minutes of the game, I re-created the opening scene from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I did battle with all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I procured commando training from Solid Snake.
Again, that was the first five minutes. There’s much more craziness to be had for hours beyond that.
Now, Retro City Rampage doesn’t outright infringe on these characters — they’re always named something fairly close to their original inspiration – think “the South Park” of videogames. For instance, instead of Doc Brown from Back to the Future, it’s Doc Choc, and so on. The references are almost always very close to the source matrial, so most people should pick up on the references — and you will love them, and clearly be able to tell that the creator loves them too.
Keep in mind, it’s really hard to do a review of this game and note all of the references I enjoyed without spoiling them for you. I already gave up a few in the previous paragraphs to give you a feel for what the game has to offer, but it’s best if you experience them for yourself. I’ll just say this — if you like 80s movies and 90s video games, be prepared to have an overload of references (what number am I thinking of? 69, DUDES!!).
The original Grand Theft Auto and GTA: London are two of my favorite games of all time, so naturally, I picked up on Retro City Rampage‘s gameplay quite easily. Everything is super simple to control and it’s super tight. Car controls are very, very easy and simply consist of using the d-pad or left analog nub. On foot, shooting and taking cover is also really easy, utilizing the square button or the right stick (essentially turning it into a twin-stick shooter), and the triangle button respectively.
If you end up dying in combat, checkpoints are fairly lenient, putting you right back into the action pretty close to where you met your untimely demise. The map itself is sprawling and has tons of variety — and you can go into a ton of structures if you want a break from open world action — whether it’s to buy anything from a new haircut, to weapons, to power-ups, or even play fake video games.
I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say there’s a Mortal Kombat “Test Your Might” style game based on a fairly popular YouTube series. A reference in a reference! To add to the game’s charm, I get a real Pokemon vibe when I go into buildings — further adding to the retro-centric nostalgic trip the game provides.
Story-wise, Retro City Rampage is fairly simple to understand: you are “The Player,” a criminal who gets caught in time through Doc Choc’s time machine car after a heist gone bad – it’s your job to repair the time machine through various missions. In a nutshell, the missions themselves range from anything to homages to Contra to Metal Gear Solid-esque sneaking quests — again, trust me when I say variety is key here — and the references make them very easy to swallow. It also helps that there’s tons of cheat code and Game Genie references that help sweeten the deal, sans microtransactions.
All of this is even easier to swallow as a whole because the retro veneer is just perfect — right down to the chiptune soundtrack and pixel-perfect graphics that pop on the Vita’s OLED. For the purposes of this review I played the PlayStation Vita copy, and the game looks outright gorgeous — in fact, it looks like it was made for the Vita, even though it’s also coming out for the PC, PS3, 360, and Wii platforms.
If you’re not satiated by the time you finish the campaign, there’s so much more for you to do in the form of challenges, replaying your favorite missions for higher scores, and a fully featured free-roaming sandbox mode. Also, you can experiment with all of the filters and TV-screen modes at you heart’s content, effectively making the game feel and look different every time you play it. Personally, after my first completion with the default settings, I just had to do another playthrough with the Virtual Boy screen filter — but you can also do anything from the Game Boy to old DOS VGA machines as well.
Although $15 for a ~30MB download may seem like a lot, provided that you can get down with retro games, this is one of the best ways you could ever spend it. Retro City Rampage is a labor of love, and one you will not want to miss.
This review is based on a digital copy of Retro City Rampage for the PlayStation Vita. It is currently available on the PC and PSN for the PS3 and Vita. It will be coming to XBLA and WiiWare at a later date.