Retro City Rampage is a love letter to the 8-bit games of yesteryear. Originally created as an 8-bit version of Grand Theft Auto III, the game evolved over the years and became its own work. Still heavily based on the original GTA released on the PlayStation 1, the game creates a sort of ‘what if’ scenario. What if the games of the ‘80s were limited by visuals, but not overall memory? You’d likely get something very similar to Retro City Rampage.
The original release of Retro City Rampage was back in 2012. And while the game was fairly well received, most players agreed, myself included, that the game was extremely unforgiving, especially in later levels. Fast forward to present day and the game has now been re-released under the title: Retro City Rampage DX. What does this new DX version bring to the table? Well first off, the game’s difficulty has been heavily balanced and tweaked, including more well-placed checkpoints and even some slight level re-designs to make the learning curve a tad less harsh. Along with balancing, the game has received a few new control tweaks, weapons, and retro visual filters, among other things. Other than that, there really isn’t much more in the terms of new content. As someone who purchased the original release, if I had not received a review copy of the DX version, I would personally be quite annoyed at having to pay full price again for something which seems like it could have been added in an update patch. That being said, if you have yet to visit beautiful Retro City, there has never been a better time.
You take control of the protagonist, aptly named The Player; a would-be career criminal who is settling for mere henchman status when we meet him. After a mishap with a robbery, our hero somehow gets sent forward in time and must now help a crazy white-haired scientist collect parts of his time machine in order to get back to your own time. To be honest, the story is pretty weak and distracts from the overall experience of free-roaming the 8-bit city. While the story is chock-full of satire and references from films, games, music and everything in between, it starts to turn into something that feels forced upon the player, rather than something you want to progress through.
The gameplay consist of overhead driving, shooting, running, and general illegal activities, but as you progress through different missions, the gameplay will become everything from a fast-paced shoot-em-up, to a side-scrolling platformer. This mix up of game styles keeps things fresh and fills the game with constant surprises. While the driving itself is a bit hectic, it plays nearly identically to the original Grand Theft Auto. The controls feel very old-school but at the same time intuitive.
Humour and parody is a huge part of Retro City Rampage, whose name itself is even a play on the popular NES title, River City Ransom. Nearly every story, billboard, street, car, and character is a reference to something or someone. The amount of references and jokes are honestly astounding and for a reference junkie like me, it’s heaven.
Surprisingly there are an amazing amount of customization options in Retro City Rampage. Able to purchase hats, hairstyles, facial features called facelifts and even play as unlockable guest stars, you’re sure to find something to fit your style and preference.
Visually the game is beyond charming; the 1980’s colours and architecture has nostalgia oozing out of every orifice. The game even allows for an extremely large amount of colour filers including everything from a recreation of the original GameBoy screen, to the ever classic monochrome display. Mix that with the various different arcade and television borders you can select, the game really gives you the feeling of playing an old cartridge you dug out of the attic.
The soundtrack is something to cherish. With fantastic throwbacks to the video game music of the past, the tunes are perky, charming, and extremely catchy. The soundtrack is so well done that I’m considering ordering the vinyl release. Sound effects are on par with the rest of the sound design. Jam packed with the ancient video game sounds you’ve come to expect, the game does a great job of borrowing some of the most iconic sounds, as well as creating its own.
In the end, Retro City Rampage DX is the definitive version of the beloved ’80s throwback. The game is now well-balanced and just as fun as it always was. While the story is a bit weak and the re-release added more or less no new content, if you are a fan of the title or have always wanted to give it a whirl, this is the time to do so; it’s a fantastic title for anyone fond of the early days of video games.