Retro City Rampage DX – As We Play

Usually when successful games are brought over to a handheld they are dumbed down or spared a few features to make them more accessible. Thankfully that isn’t the case with Retro City Rampage DX, which actually adds plenty of new features and also upgrades many existing core mechanics. This is my first experience of the game in any iteration and on first loading the game, it seems like a perfect home for this kind of gaming experience.

The games that Retro City Rampage DX is emulating – or mostly parodying – were insular experiences. The closest you could get to multiplayer gaming back in the day was a LAN party or discussing tactics and techniques in art class. The 3DS allows the player to fully immerse themselves in this violent, GTA-esque 8-Bit adventure and hide their hideous actions in game from prying eyes. And, to be honest, there is no way anyone could play this without causing mayhem on the in-game streets.

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The first thing that occurred to me is that this game will offer completely different experiences to the various generations who play. Some will see a retro version of GTA, some will see a parody version of the original GTA and for others, much of the writing may pass above their heads. As a child of the 80’s, I couldn’t help but revel in the details lavished throughout. This Indie game is relishing a back catalogue of pop culture which features Back to the Future, Bill and Ted, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and even the “much admired through rose tinted glasses” Saved by the Bell. If you don’t know what Saved by the Bell is, then it’s quite likely you won’t get 100% of the references from what the developers have created.

I loved each small nod to past games, TV shows and movies. Anytime another nostalgic moment would arrive I could be found chortling behind my 3DS. However, the humour isn’t limited to spoofs but also VBlank entertainment taking a vocal stand against the current landscape of the video game industry.

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The core of the game obviously apes past open-world crime games in both a clever and satirical way. Missions are incredibly varied and are played out in much the same vein as those that inspired this game, each featuring plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour as well as bags of action. When I first began exploring Theftropolis I was having a blast, speeding down avenues and leaping out to cause havoc with a large array of weapons. Annoyingly, the controls are occasionally a little lacking in precision, which doesn’t help as the difficulty begins to ramp up. There are also a few set-piece scenes which are flawed due to the controls. Some simplistic ideas are also spoiled by frustrating mechanics, such as stealth levels. On one level, I was required to break out of prison and was being spotted by guards that were actually off-screen.

Easily my favourite aspect is in the exploration. The story is fun, the missions are enjoyable – at least before the difficulty attempts to climb so steeply it becomes vertical – but it’s in the minutiae that the deign shines. I love looking for loot bags and messages on the phone booths and it wouldn’t be a great Indie game without hidden nods to the community. Upon stumbling on a Minecraft designed area I became a Cheshire cat looking upon a bowl of full fat cream. And after finding the arcade in the city, I had to force myself back to the missions rather than spend time playing BIT.TRIP or Meat Boy mini games.

When the game began to frustrate – underwater sections are the bane of any retro gamer’s existence – I would attempt to set high scores and win medals in the ludicrous kill-spree side missions which are equally fun and challenging. However, the developer has missed a trick by not including a way to compare scores with your friends and when all the gold medals are won, the idea of replaying these side missions becomes limited.

Other minor niggles are present and brought on by the developer utilising the 3DS hardware. Thankfully there are no 3D sections, but the touch screen use is a blessing and a curse. Maneuvering the mini-map and radio stations are a joy after a few taps of a finger, but weapon selection can sometimes be a pain, particularly when looking for the right weapon in the middle of a fight. As the game features several large handfuls of unique devices of violence, browsing the touch screen while a fight or shootout is in progress is awkward and the fall back option of the shoulder buttons is no help.

           Areas for Development

  • Controls need tightening
  • Tweak the AI in some sections to allow smoother gameplay
  • Pause fights to select weapons when using touchscreen
  • Needs leaderboards for challenges
  • Crying out for a unique StreetPass idea.

      Final Analysis

Retro City Rampage DX is a game where friends can get together and discuss the myriad of small details that makes the experience so entertaining. It is one to enjoy for its bare faced cheek and ideas of thumbing a nose at many archetypes. Even after completion, I have been back to it just to seek out missed jokes or blow up people and vehicles alike. The flaws present were annoying, but I still came away grinning like a loon from a Ghostbusters themed mission or something as simple as a funny billboard.

Technical Competency – 8/10

Graphical State/Sound Quality – 9/10

 Utilization of unique hardware – 7/10 

Overall – 8/10