Nukezilla Review: Retro City Rampage (PS Vita)
Originally started as a homebrew project to recreate some of the mechanics of Grand Theft Auto III on an NES, it evolved into a game someone might actually want to play. Take control of “The Player”, steal cars, fight off a hilariously aggressive police force and cause general mayhem and destruction.
The story revolves around The Player (a stand-in for whatever the hell the name of the guy from GTA III is) working with Doc Brown from Back to the Future (more or less) to rebuild his time traveling DeLorean (again, not technically called a DeLorean). Everything is an incredibly thinly veiled parody of something else. For example, the Jester (as opposed to Batman’s nemesis the Joker) or Dr. Von Buttnick (a take on Sonic’s old enemy, from before Sega insisted on using the incredibly stupid name Eggman).
The music all feels very… familiar. The only part of the game not created by designer Brian Provinciano, he wisely brought in Jake Kaufman (aka virt), Leonard J. Paul (aka Freaky DNA), and Matt Creamer (aka Norrin_Radd) to mimic the most notable videogame soundtracks of the ‘80s. Even if you don’t plan on playing the game, give the soundtrack a listen.
RCR borrows a bit from GTA: San Andreas as well, letting you change your character’s appearance. Haircuts, tattoos, hats, and even full-face swaps are available. Some of the faces are neat, like the developers, or for some reason John Romero. Others, while cool to them I’m sure, seem like shoutouts to friends, like the afore mentioned Destructoid staff members (some of whom were no longer with the site by the time the game came out) or the guys from Epic Meal Time. An interesting little bonus, but I’m not sure how many people want to play as the guy who does PR for Harmonix.
Retro City Rampage accurately replicates the mechanics of games ranging from the mid-‘90s, top-down GTA games to Smash TV. And this is where the game’s few faults stem from: it replicated some of those games too well.
Some of the missions are incredibly hard, clearly inspired by the days when game design was driven more by getting players to drop more quarters than actually being fun. A challenge is fine, and Retro City Rampage does a good job of letting you restart at whichever stage of the mission you died on, but some sections are just ridiculous. I remember actually saying, out loud, to myself in my room, that whoever tested the Smash TV inspired Death Cam VHS section clearly has no functioning genitals, because rubbing one out would be a better use of their time than figuring out how to make it through this crap.
That is the kind of wild bullshit this game has you saying out of frustration.
Same goes for the final Buttnick boss battle. Really the last third of the game is horrendously frustrating instead of rewarding. I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment or achievement upon beating these sections. I was simply glad I’d never have to see them again.
But beating the game is worth it, as it unlocks both Turbo Mode and the Light Gun, a weapon based on the NES Zapper. Both make the included free roaming mode much more fun.
Speaking of which, I love free roaming mode. Not that the main game is especially restrictive, but a mode dedicated to wanton destruction with no set goals and easier access to the game’s full arsenal is a fun addition. You know, like in GTA III how you would put in a few cheat codes, then see how long you could fight off the national guard? Hell, I spent more time with that than the story missions in the GTA games. Playing that way it didn’t matter as much that the controls were a bit shit.
But I digress. Retro City Rampage is a funny little homage to both open world crime games and the 8-bit era. In many ways it’s the perfect tribute.
Too bad that last third of the game is such a bastard.