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Review: Retro City Rampage for Vita

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Title: Retro City Rampage
Price: $14.99
System(s): PS Vita (Also available for PS3, Windows and eventually Xbox 360 and Wii)
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher (Developer): VBlank Entertainment (VBlank Entertainment)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Violence, Blood, Use of Alcohol, Crude Humor and Sexual Content
Pros: 60 missions in the story mode, tons of pop culture and gaming references, plenty of customization options, incredible visual style, game save is compatible with PS3 and Vita, there are lots of collectables, mini-games inspired by other popular indies are in the in-game arcade and there’s a free-play option where you can use guest characters.
Cons: Zoom options are hit or miss. It can get punishingly difficult. Entering a cheat-code disables the ability to save. There are tons of fetch-quests. Looks and plays better on the Vita than on the PS3.
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb sideways, 87/100, B+, * * * 1/2 out of 5

You could think of Retro City Rampage as an experiment. Could a game along the lines of Grand Theft Auto be successfully created in the style of an NES game. The answer is yes, and VBlank Entertainment has done it perfectly. Not only has it created an open world, retro adventure, it has managed to jam in a nearly endless number of references in such a way that it doesn’t feel like you’re being bombarded. Sure, you’ll see turtles popping up from sewers, an Apple store knock-off, a cave with a man bearing a sword and endless pop culture inserts, but it’s handled in a way that makes you smile when each one appears, rather than cringe.

Back to the future to be the ultimate anti-hero.

The Player is a bad man, but then, who isn’t in Theftropolis? In a city like this, you have to be bad to survive. He’s one of the Jester’s henchmen, until he finds a port-a-potty time machine (Which I think is a reference to Doctor Who‘s Tardis) and finds himself in the future. He then meets a scientist named Doc Brown with what appears to be a DeLorean time machine and a home-made lab. Doc Brown proclaims Player the legendary hero and Player has to then help repair Doc Brown’s DeLorean so he can use it. This involves all kinds of fetch quests and missions, not to mention facing Doc Brown’s arch-enemy, Dr. Von Buttnick (Sonic the Hedgehog reference, naturally).

Not that the story actually matters. Retro City Rampage‘s story is a throw-away and pretty much an excuse to have Player get involves in all kinds of missions, side-quests and jobs that are inspired by video games, TV shows and movies from the 1980′s. I’m sure there’s some semblence of order here, but I lost track of it shortly after the first Doc Brown mission, which involves helping . I as too busy getting Cloud hair for Player and chopping down bushes with my new sword and shield.

Prepare for discombobulated fun and heartbreak.

Retro City Rampage is a mission-based action game. Player can roam around Theftropolis taking part in story missions, side-quests or challenge missions. While the circumstances around each one may be different, most of these missions involve destroying things, grabbing an item and taking it back to a certain location unharmed or reaching a certain area while being bombarded by enemies. Often, all three things are happening at once. That isn’t to say every mission is like that, as a Contra mission pits Player against a Robocop enemy that can only be destroyed with a certain item, the Paperboy mission has the player delivering magazines and an almost Maniac Mansion style mission has Player searching through a house, but these elements tend to constantly resurface. It seems like it could get tedious and I won’t lie and say that sometimes it does feel like the same thing is happening over and over, but the story and references helps keep Retro City Rampage feeling fresh. I found I was too busy laughing and understanding what references were being used to feel frustrated by needing to steal some odd item again.

What also helps is the freedom. While Retro City Rampage may remind you that there’s always a story mission available to undertake in the Story mode, it doesn’t force anything on the player. I was able to take Player through the whole city, searching for payphones, invisible walls and loot (collectibles) when I didn’t feel like retrieving a stolen monkey-car that looks like Donkey Kong. The map had main and extra missions marked, so I could always peek and see if something was nearby to do. Not to mention there’s plenty of shopping to be done, which results in new “looks” for Player or perhaps a new weapon or ride. Even though it was expensive and slow, I bought a skateboard from the Skate or Die knock-off store just for giggles.

Then there are the mini-games. I swear, I have spent about two hours just playing the Super Meat Boy, Bit.Trip Runner and Epic Meal Time. Partially, it was because they’re so much fun. It was also because they’re a great way to unlock extra character skins for the free-play mode. There’s something surprisingly satisfying about watching Meat Boy run around Theftropolis.

Which brings us to how fantastic Retro City Rampage looks. Granted, some things are a bit tiny, but the visual style is delightful and perfectly recreates the NES experience. It gets better though. There are multiple color schemes that makes the game look like it not only appeared on the NES, but on various computers or handhelds. My favorite has to be the one that mimicks the original Game Boy experience, especially since you can combine that with a border that looks like the brick Game Boy. That, and the ability to choose a “radio station” for background music, really lets he player make Retro City Rampage feel like it was a classic oldie from their favorite system.

I love Retro City Rampage. I do. There are some things in the game that test that love. For example, the zoom options are either too small or too big. The 2x leaves you missing things, while 3x is too close. Fetch quests are plentiful, which can get a bit tedious when you’re yearning for one of the more unusual missions. Most grating is the sudden shift in difficulty that can sneak up on the player. One minute, a story mission can be something you effortlessly breeze through, while the next places Player against nearly insurmountable odds and breaks your heart as you struggle to overcome an overwhelming situation. This happens most with boss fights. I can understand wanting to emulate the Nintendo Hard experience present in certain NES games, but build up to it gradually and maintain some semblence of balance in certain challenges and boss fights. Don’t bother entering a cheat code to try to give yourself an edge, as it will disable saving!

Retro City Rampage is everything retro fans would want and more

Retro City Rampage is a hodgepodge of ideas, pop culture references and gameplay concepts tossed into one game and mixed up in the hopes it all works out. Spoiler: It does. VBlank Entertainment has done an incredible job of providing oddles of story and challenge levels for players to explore, as well as the ability to enjoy everything Theftropolis has to offer in a free play mode. You could spend hours just trying to catalog the various cameos and parodies and still miss out on some of them. Most importantly, players can tell Retro City Rampage is a labor of love. VBlank Entertainment went out of its way to honor and lampoon games, shows and movies they loved, and that most like the players loved as well. While people who grew up and/or were gaming in the 1980′s will love Retro City Rampage most, any gamer who loves retro tributes will savor every moment spent with this game.

Site [Retro City Rampage]

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