The best way to sum up developer Vblank’s Retro City Rampage is that it’s an 8 bit Grand Theft Auto with ’80s and ’90s references galore, and those aren’t limited to just old NES games. You’ll find nods to music, movies, and other various forms of now retro pop culture. In the first fifteen minutes alone you get references to Back to the Future, Super Mario Bros. 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the first NES game), Duck Hunt, Frogger, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Megaman 2, just to name a few. When you first start the game the story goes by pretty quickly while tossing these references at you. I had to pause the game once I had control of the character to recollect what had just happened. After I realized all the references I couldn’t help the smile from my face and proceeded to keep playing.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is an 8 bit Grand Theft Auto and that shows in the way it controls. Triangle allows you to “borrow” cars while the X button enables you to jump. While in a car you can press L1 or R1 to cycle through the various radio stations. If you’re not in a vehicle, pressing L1 and R1 cycles through your weapons that you’ve collected. The square button is you action button allowing you to punch, shoot or whatever weapon you may be holding. Seems familiar doesn’t it? At the top of the screen you have a HUD that also mimics GTA. You have a police meter, a map, an icon that displays your current equipped weapon and your score. If you’ve played any GTA game you shouldn’t have any issues with how it controls.
One of my favorite things about the game is the music. I could be wrong here but it sounds like true genuine 8 bit NES music. Some of it mimics classic game music like the Megaman 2 title theme and others, but it has a lot of original music as well. It reminds of the bass-heavy gritty music of Sunsoft NES games; some examples include Batman and Blaster Master. Speaking of Batman, there is a Batman-like mission (or Biffman as its called) complete with a Batman sounding theme song. If you are a fan of retro game music the soundtrack is a must own. It can be found online and it is also available on vinyl for the hardcore retro heads.
The story is put together brilliantly. It combines Back to the Future with numerous NES references. Basically the point of the game is to collect all the pieces to Doc Choc’s time machine so you can get back to your time. In case you didn’t get that reference; Doc Choc = Doc Brown from Back to The Future. The parts of the time machine are nods to the NES itself including a cartridge cleaning kit and a 72 pin connector. This is the setup and like in any GTA you can go do side missions if you choose. Getting in a taxi cab and pressing square will even allows you to do those taxi missions for extra cash. Wondering around the city you will find various arcade type challenges. Most consist of racing around the city or killing a certain amount of people in a time limit with a certain weapon. While these are a fun diversion for a while, I found myself getting bored with them like I do in most sand box style games. There are hidden packages or, as they are called here, loot bags. Along with loot bags there are 8 invisible walls to find and 32 phone booths.
While I like the game there were a couple things that got to me. First was the length. I know some will think I’m nit picking here but the main story can be completed in about 4-6 hours depending on your skill. I know length shouldn’t matter as long as you are having fun, and I did. I just wanted more. I’m hoping to see some good DLC for this game in the future so that it’s not forgotten. The other complaint is the cops. Sure they are easy to get rid of, but its hard to point them out from the other pedestrians. it’s a minor annoyance but hearing that 8 bit cop siren can be nerve racking.
Overall I very much enjoyed the RCR experience. It had me smiling part of the time, and other times wanting to snap my controller in half. It has its unforgiving NES moments, but just because parts of it is hard doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. If you like retro games or are a sucker for nostalgia, Retro City Rampage is your game and it won’t disappoint. Now go borrow a car and try it our for yourself!