More nods than a Churchill dog in here. Can it get another one from us?
It was in the early 1980s that gaming really started to take off, with the 8-bit era many peoples first forays into the medium – including my own – and many of todays top gaming franchises saw their beginnings there. Most of these games were masterpieces in their own right, but were generally nowhere near as complicated as todays offerings.
But imagine if there was such a game? A NES game based on Grand Theft Auto, but mixed and merged with many differing refinements from a whole host of game series and spliced with many different jokes, references, homages and nods to a whole multitude of things from gaming and popular culture from the last thirty odd years? Filled with collectibles, cars, weapons and the ability to jump on your enemies heads to get a coin too?
Brian Provinciano’s Retro City Rampage is such a game. Enjoying a European and PAL release here some months after the North American release, the game is presented as if you were playing on the NES (or for that matter a multitude of different visual settings, inlcuding a Gameboy version) you are launched into a top down world up which the hero (that’s you) finds yourself in the employ of The Jester and you are tasked with robbing the local bank, The Dark Knight style. Any worries that you will suffer the same fate as the goons is soon dispersed as you find yourselves dodging traffic, before outrunning the police and dispossessing Bill and Ted of their time machine. Now if you think that is crazy, Doc Choc then arrives in his DeLorean-style time machine…
As you will have noticed already, this is not a game to take seriously. The game even advises this upon booting, and has divided many opinons in the gaming world from those that have an affinity for the era and those that don’t. The look is certainly going to put some people off, but beauty is only skin deep. That said, had this actually been released at the time, I am sure it would have gone down as one of the most visually impressive games. It certainly is ambitous.
Boasting more than 60 different missions set in and around town you will probably find something to do with your favourite games in here if you look hard enough, such is the attention to detail and desire to cram so much in. At times you might lose track of it all as the speed with which you are hit with everything is relentless so you might want a couple of plays at least if you want to take it all in. This can also be detrimental to your experience.
So, set in Theftopolis – a glorious city crammed with many great little treats – your purpose is to aid Doc Choc in repairing his time machine. It isn’t quite that simple as you will soon realise, as to recover these pieces you will find yourselves encountering many different missions and tasks often aiding other minor characters along the way. Provinciao has crammed so many different things into the game, but ultimately they all seem to play in a similar manner. Drive to here, collect this and kill these people (with many different varieties of weapons, including a proton pack!) before wrapping it up and on to the next one. To be totally honest, it did get quite repetetive and in many places, extremely frustrating. Perhaps that was also a point for the game, as I do recall many older games being notorioulsy frustrating in places! I’m not the best gamer by any means, but some of these missions nearly made me throw my Vita. But everytime I got annoyed, something charming made it all alright again, be it another nod or homage. Or the bit where Doc Choc tells you how he “used to have a right hand woman, now it’s just a right hand” which had me chuckling for a bit.
Still, if you do get annoyed you can turn it off and go back to it later, and it’s perfectly suited to the Vita in that sense, and the game does also benefit from being a cross buy and a cross save title. Buying it one and getting the PS3 copy too and porting your progress to you Vita for taking on the go. It is still something that is not utilised as much on PSN and fair play to vBlank for offering this. It’s a very useful and under-used feature.
Returning to the campaign, you do eventually find out that the true nemesis is a very familiar looking chap and as you continue to play you will find yourlself in an increasing number of crossovers. I’m not going to spoil them here, but you will chuckle at you first true fight with this nemesis with a SNES and Mega Drive (Genesis) amalgamation!
As well as being able to free roam and do what you want in the city, as undertaking many different secondary missions at your leisure there are 14 different arcade challenges for you to attempt and try to outscore your friends best efforts through the online leaderboards.
Retro City Rampage is jam packed full with a lot of content, and there is much to do long after you have completed the main campaign, whether it be the arcade, the challenges or just enjoying the scenery and taking it all in. I suspect that it will find most appreciation with those who gamed in that era, or have a love of the time and to you i suggest that you give it a go. If this doesn’t apply to you then give it a go anyway, you might be pleasantly surprised.