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Review

Retro City Rampage Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: October 12, 2012
  • PC

The ride's a little rough at times, but Retro City Rampage's blend of open-world action and 8-bit style is goofy, novel fun.

Back in 1987, when the NES was at the peak of its reign, the video game world was not yet ready for the open-world urban crime adventure. But today, a quarter century later, Retro City Rampage lets you experience what the genre might have been like if it had been introduced on that now-primitive platform. In terms of its gameplay, it's often not quite faithful enough to the games of the era that inspired it, and in terms of its difficulty, it's sometimes too faithful. But all in all, Retro City Rampage is an enjoyable experience in which old meets new to create something both fresh and familiar.

In Retro City Rampage's Story mode, you play as Player, a low-ranking henchman in a supercriminal's army. Following an introductory series of stages that references The Dark Knight, Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Frogger, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Super Mario Bros. 2, Back to the Future, and much more, you're set free in the city of Theftropolis to spend your time as you see fit. You can complete story missions or ignore them, and spend your time causing chaos and competing in the score-based challenges scattered all over town.

Every mission in Retro City Rampage's Story mode skewers video games, movies, or TV shows of the 80s. If you have any reverence for icons of 80s pop culture, don't be surprised if versions of those icons show up in RCR and are made to suffer some indignities. (The Ghostbusters, for instance, are spoofed here as the Go-Go Busters. Their job is even messier and nastier than catching and occasionally getting slimed by ghosts.) Too often, the game is raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy, without any cleverness to actually make its off-color gags funny. But the game throws so much at the wall that, while most of it doesn't stick, enough does to make for a good number of laughs, and there's some particularly scathing humor about indie game development and major publishers.

No convertible can contain Player's magnificent hair.

What with the danger of being run over as you stroll down the sidewalk or being stomped on by criminals flying around in hover suits, Theftropolis doesn't seem like a nice place to live. It is, however, a pleasure to look at, particularly if you have a soft spot in your heart for 8-bit worlds. The pixelated residents of Theftropolis are a wonderfully diverse bunch. Despite being quite tiny, they have a good deal of personality, thanks to their vibrant colors, their big hair, and jaunty hats--not to mention their expressive animations as they strut down the street, breakdance or otherwise pass the time.

The city has at least as much personality as its residents. Everywhere you look, there are references on shop signs and billboards to 80s video games and other pop culture artifacts. For that extra dose of nostalgia, an impressive assortment of color modes lets you make the game look as if it's running on a wide range of 80s gaming and computer hardware; a CGA mode, for example, severely limits the game's color palette and dominates it with blue and purple, recalling the visuals on early Apple computers. There's also a fine selection of borders that can make the game look like it's being played on an old TV, an arcade cabinet, or other setups, with optional scanlines to help sell the illusion. Regardless of your visual preference, the catchy 8-bit music is sure to please, and would have been right at home in an NES game.

Any way you want it, that's the way you need it.

Unfortunately, as alluring as the city is, getting around Theftropolis isn't always enjoyable. Player moves sluggishly until he gets a bit of momentum going, and although all the vehicles around you are yours for the taking, many of them are too slow to be much fun to drive. Still, there are some speedy little numbers to cruise around in. The two driving control schemes let you select between an option in which you use a button to accelerate and in which pushing left or right turns your vehicle to its left or right regardless of which way you're driving onscreen, and an option in which you push the thumbstick up to move up, down to move down, and so on. This second, far less realistic option allows for more responsive, turn-on-a-dime controls and more enjoyable vehicular shenanigans as a result. (On PC, you also have the option of playing with a keyboard, which works just fine.)

The Story mode's 62 stages sometimes reference specific games not only in their plot setups and characters but in their concepts, and this often ends up being a liability. One mission is modeled on Paperboy, for instance, but the controls don't feel anything like Paperboy. They feel like Retro City Rampage, and RCR's controls weren't designed for gameplay like Paperboy's, so the mission doesn't actually capture the feel, or the fun, of Paperboy. Players who are too young to remember Paperboy won't get any joy from the reference, and players who do remember Paperboy will be frustrated by the way the gameplay fails to capture what actually made Paperboy enjoyable. That's a recurring issue throughout Retro City Rampage's story mode. Its attempts to mimic Paperboy, Tapper, Contra and other games usually end up feeling wrong. The one exception is Smash TV, which RCR's controls allow it to passably imitate.

Like many 8-bit games, RCR's difficulty is inconsistent, and sometimes quite high. There are times when the challenge is welcome; the final boss fight can be thumb-blistering and rage-inducing, but when you finally get the pattern down, your victory is rewarding, and you come away feeling like, having mastered the battle, you could now win it again and again without breaking a sweat.

But at other times, the difficulty is simply unfair. On one mission, for instance, you need to follow the not-so-heroic superhero Biffman across town. The game humorously parodies the commonplace missions in open-world games in which you must tail other vehicles without getting too close or too far away. Player finds the task so boring that you must not only follow Biffman but must also frequently stop for coffee, lest the sheer boredom of the mission put Player to sleep. It's an amusing concept, but frustration arises when you must swing by a drive-thru restaurant. Sometimes, pedestrians mill about in your narrow path. Hit them, and the police are likely to jump on you, resulting in instant mission failure and sending you back to the mission's start. Wait for them to clear out and you lose Biffman, resulting in the same thing. Sure, such difficulty issues occurred often in the 8-bit era, but the extra layer of nostalgia doesn't keep them from being frustrating here.

Behold the soothing colors of nostalgia.

But when it sticks to simple rampaging and havoc-wreaking, Retro City Rampage is goofy, cathartic fun. To use weapons, you can either press a button and make use of a lock-on system, or use the right thumbstick to aim and shoot as in a typical dual-stick shooter. There's an enjoyable variety of guns and melee weapons to use. Wild power-ups like speed shoes and unlockable abilities like a ground-shaking super stomp keep the action pleasantly absurd.

And outside of the Story mode, there's a good deal to do that benefits rather than suffers from RCR's retro trappings. There are secrets aplenty to discover in the forms of warp pipes to secret areas and cheat codes you can enter, among other things, which makes exploring Theftropolis a rewarding pursuit. You can stop by Nolan's Arcade to play a few simple but fun arcade games that reward you with content bonuses if you do well. And there are dozens of pick-up-and-play challenges which give you a quick burst of outrageous carnage and allow you to compete for a high score on the leaderboards.

A Minecraft-inspired big head mode is among Retro City Rampage's discoverable secrets.

You can also customize your character with a vast assortment of faces, tattoos and hairstyles, many of which have clever references worked into them. (Get the "Dennis Kooper" cut and you can finally live the dream of having hair like Dennis Hopper had when he played King Koopa in Super Mario Bros.!) Unfortunately, the in-game map doesn't show the locations of shops, so locating the barber shop or other store that had the particular cosmetic item you're looking for can take some time, until you have the lay of the land memorized.

Finally, there's the Free Roam mode, in which you can cavort around Theftropolis as Player or a number of other unlockable characters. Retro City Rampage is a good amount of game for your $15, and if you're old enough to remember the 80s, its shortcomings will be outweighed by the pleasures of jacking cars, spotting references, and discovering secrets in its enticing 8-bit city. It's appropriate that there are so many time travel references in Retro City Rampage. Like the cold response Marty McFly got from his failed attempt to introduce 80s-style guitar licks to the people of the 1950s, a game like Retro City Rampage might have been too much for players of the 1980s to handle. But now, its time has come, and it's well worth experiencing, warts and all.

The Good
Old-school graphics infuse a contemporary genre with new life
Colorful world is fun to explore and to cause trouble in
Packed with nostalgic 80s references
Good assortment of enjoyable side activities
Great visual customization options
The Bad
Missions stumble when trying to evoke specific games
Unfair difficulty spikes
Somewhat stiff controls
7
Good
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About the Author

Discussion

0 comments
Diarma10
Diarma10

When I first heard about this game I thought it was a sequel to the Midway monster classic Rampage. Still, When I hear the name, months later, that is the image I have. I think I'll play Rampage now....

jakcul
jakcul

This game is only $4 on Steam right now. I had a blast with the demo, so I think it's worth picking up for that.

gomagomes
gomagomes

this game is good until the last mission. it's one of the most unfair extra difficult bosses ever. it isn't even tricky or challenging, it's like over exaggerated hard, makes you feel like AVGN playing and throwing your controller on the screen.

iowastate
iowastate

80s had the best television some  great movies and music but it looks like they tried too hard and pack too many references in too short a time

croserII
croserII

80 era is something different,exotic and artist,music is different,I think who made this game has 80 hair style

good game

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Why is retro considered some gimmicky thing like this. I mean 16 bit snes graphics were much more manageable and were also retro how about some 16 bit quality games so we can actually tell what stuff is? It doesnt have to be crappy 8 bit graphics to be retro.

Shadowmax889
Shadowmax889

This review sucks

 

(reply from Gelugon_baat in 3....2....1.....)

3Minotaur3
3Minotaur3

Fortunately, I could see it in action before having to purchase it... It's games like this that makes me miserable...

 

As a pure game, it's all chore and boredom... fast...

As a nostalgic, finding as much references as you can, it's a pure blast!...

 

In the end, it will be a no buy (or an impulsive buy at 70% discount...), because once you're bored of finding references (or found them all on wiki eventually...), this game lost his only worth and interest... 

 

keyb0red
keyb0red

mmm might check this out

tgwolf
tgwolf

LOL, 'unfair difficulty spikes,' ah, good old NES...good times!

nate1222
nate1222

Got RCR for PC off GOG (DRM-free!) yesterday. Damn fun game. Also, it automaps to your USB gamepad (Logitech/360). Being 36 and having gamed since I was 14, I got alotta the references in RCR. It's both a celebration and a satire of the 8bit NES (3rd gen) era.

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

People insist in comparing scores of recently reviewed games (and only) as if they have a goldfish memory span that cannot serve them better and it's interesting to see that repeat.

alien33
alien33

So, according to the score this game is looooot better than RE6 hahaha! OK, just kidding... :)

Romangelo
Romangelo

This reviewer doesn't take her job serious? He gave One Piece Pirate Warriors a 4.0 and this game got 7.0 LOL

shinspikes
shinspikes

Controls mean everything to me, with this having stiff controls, guess I won't be getting it.

honglong17
honglong17

Seriously why people criticism everything GS say ?, and say this is trash or that is trash, that too serious & insult don't you think ?

rza510
rza510

Yeah...I feel like my feelings for gamespot are getting more and more blah. I've been watching IGN a lot more lately xD A LOT of GS reviews are trash...So I wouldn't ever take their word.

ImBack558855
ImBack558855

Carolyn Petit... lmao she completely ruined the Metal Gear marathon.. haha... she said they couldn't find anyone in the game spot staff or office at that time to play the Metal Gear game for the marathon... so they asked her to play it... which was a terrible idea if you ask me... if you work in a game related atmosphere then you should at least know how to play games... i just find it really hard to believe that they couldn't find at least one person that knew how to play a Metal Gear game... i don't think anyone in the game spot staff really knows how to play games.. all they know how to do is write articles, or give bogus score reviews... any how... this game looks pretty bada**... lol... 

moc5
moc5

 @Shadowmax889 You ever play Left 4 Dead?  You know when you throw that beeping grenade and all the zombies irresistibly clamber toward it only to get blown into bits for their trouble?  Nice trap... kaboom! :)

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

A true gamer adapts to poor controls and makes them part of the challenge. (Insert Yoda mrrrmm here.)

rza510
rza510

 @shinspikes Controls not as smooth as I would like,but its not unplayable or unenjoyable,you should play it bro. 

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @honglong17 Because some people are shallow and don't understand the point of reviews because they only want someone to tell them what they want to hear.

rza510
rza510

 @honglong17 Yes, I agree. Poor wording on my part. I should have said, I disagree with quite a few of their reviews,and not disrespected with "trash". Not trying to sound like a D!ck,my apologies. 

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @rza510 Reviews are just the opinions, feelings and experiences of one person with a game. They're not meant to tell you what you want to hear. You're never going to agree with a reviewer 100%.

 

TotalBiscuit doesn't really do "reviews". He just sorta "talks" over some gameplay footage and tries to be funny while. If that's your thing, enjoy.

DAOWAce
DAOWAce

 @rza510 You should be watching TotalBiscuit instead.  He actually knows what he's talking about, unlike Gamespot and IGN.

Justforvisit
Justforvisit

@Starsail0r @abcdefgabcdefgz Well, 16bit is definetly more beautiful and able to show things a bit more detailed and still can maintain a retro look. Especially with tools like RM2K and such it isn't even really difficult to create stuff in 16bit, even if you're on your own.

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @Romangelo Caro is one of the best reviewers in the business. Unfortunately there are some narrow-minded individuals who either hate her for who she is, or hate her because they can't handle somebody having a different opinion about a game. Both examples are pathetic.

ImBack558855
ImBack558855

 @rza510  nah man no need to apologize.. you was only speaking the truth.

ShadowRun02
ShadowRun02

 @Harrydapro  @rza510 a review is some guy's opinion, u don't have to agree with it. i read reviews because i want to know what others feel about the game, not to get pissed off when i don't agree. IGN's scores are generally higher then GS but maybe that's because they have a wider range of reviewers who like a wider range of games and genres. (not sure about that though, maybe they're just optimistic)

 

ImBack558855
ImBack558855

 @Gelugon_baat yeah like your BS link down there has anything to do with this topic..  :/ bite me.....

moc5
moc5

 @Romangelo  @Gelugon_baat You sisnt just spew rage.  You actually bothered to explain why you felt the way you did.  Based on that, your comment is relevant and brooks no heckling as far as I'm concerned, regardless if I agree or not.

Romangelo
Romangelo

 @Gelugon_baat  @moc5 so you can't take a different opinion from people who can't take a different opinion? how is that make you better than anyone else?

moc5
moc5

 @Gelugon_baat Haha!  I think GS would be either a lot less obvious or without a doubt direct than you have been if they were defending or intervening, and furthermore you are no shill.  I've seen your reviews for a lot of games and I agree with many of them.  I was just playing along.  Devil's advocate if you will... :)

moc5
moc5

 @Gelugon_baat  @Romangelo I sure hope you dont do all that you do on GS for free Gelugon?!?!  ..... it does seem a bit suspicious how you defend GS all the time.  You must be their number one fan like in that Steven King novel. ;)

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Orrrrrrr, y'know, we read what she writes and don't think it's that well written. Not everyone has it in for GLBT people.

Harrydapro
Harrydapro

 @ShadowRun02  @rza510 I think you have misinterpreted my comment. I don't mind hearing/reading a reviewers opinion, but sometimes they review a game too high or low without sating the reasons for the verdict.

 

The Dishonored review from Gamespot has a score of 9.0 and has no cons. 

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

 @ImBack558855 

well, there you go ~_^

i'm stopping the off-topic chat or the mods will set the dogs on me, but take care.

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

 @ImBack558855 

well i'm sure you're not laughing nor crying but i'm happy to entertain regardless. right now i'm troll-proof however, you can't make me fight with the fellow gamer that is you. or are you one of those casual gamers?

ImBack558855
ImBack558855

 @Mega_Loser your the most entertainment i've had in a long time.. hahaha rolling on the floor.......... it's so funny i'm crying 

 

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

 @ImBack558855 

they must be very close now, them. the grammar police are the worst, i hear. i would run if i was you. i would run my fastest.

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

 @ImBack558855 

i'm sorry it has come to this but i called them and the grammar police are on their way.

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

 @ImBack558855 

you've proven convincingly to every one that you are below 15 years old, you don't have to continue posting comments anymore.

 

Retro City Rampage More Info

  • First Released
    • 3DS
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Wii
    • Xbox 360
    A parody of the open-world action genre, Retro City Rampage takes modern game mechanics and mashes them into an authentic 8-bit experience.
    7.4
    Average User RatingOut of 112 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Retro City Rampage
    Developed by:
    Vblank Entertainment Inc.
    Published by:
    Vblank Entertainment Inc.
    Genres:
    Adventure, Third-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Crude Humor, Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol, Violence