Retro City Rampage PS3 Review

Publisher: Vblank Entertainment  Developer: Vblank Entertainment  Genre: Action  Players: 1 

Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox 360, Vita, Wii

Retro City Rampage is a game that started life as a homebrew project that went under the title of Grand Theftendo, and was actually initially intended to be an 8-bit version of Grand Theft Auto III, before it turned into the game we know today. Being that its genesis was way back in 2002, this is a game that has altered over time, and the development time has been a long and drawn out one.

But Retro City Rampage is mostly the work of a solitary figure, that figure being Canadian game designer Brian Provinciano. With the latter said, it’s with little wonder that such an ambitious game took its time to be completed, and, if anything, this will make many appreciate Retro City Rampage even more.

You would have had to have been living under a rock to not know what the mighty Grand Theft Auto series is. Yes, perhaps you may not be completely clued up about Retro City Rampage, but me mentioning Grand Theft Auto III in the opening paragraph of this review surely gave you an inkling as to what sort of things the game is comprised of.

Retro City Rampage is a top-down game played in an open-world city environment, in which you can steal cars, run people over, and whatnot. So far so early Grand Theft Auto, but it would be churlish to exclusively call Retro City Rampage a clone of Rockstar’s hugely popular series, as this is a game that takes its inspiration from many more sources than just the Grand Theft Auto series.

Whilst Provinciano was still intending Retro City Rampage to be an 8-bit Grand Theft Auto III remake, he suddenly got the idea to add in references to many other games as well as nods towards other pop culture, so Grand Theftendo turned into Retro City Rampage. Yes, it’s still like Grand Theft Auto, but it’s so much more now as well.

It would be impossible to mention all of the references here, as there’s so many of them to be found throughout the game, and it’s also best to discover most of them for yourself. There’s plenty of humor and parodies, with examples including references to Mega Man, Frogger, Paperboy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, Zelda, Metal Gear, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Back to the Future and more. It’s a generally amusing game as well, and the zany story and meshing of references just adds to its appeal, while these references also make things feel all the more varied in terms of how Retro City Rampage actually plays.

The game does have its difficulty spikes, although it is inspired by an era when many joypads were tossed down and broken into a million pieces. Even though I know that the tiny rocker launcher-wielding enemies are AI, I really did feel like shaking my fists at them during certain stages of the game. Yes, things can certainly get tough in Retro City Rampage’s open-world.

The driving is fun, although the police do disappoint with not being very aggressive when they are pursuing you. The shooting and fighting on the other hand work well enough, and it feels generous for the game to be granting you the manner in which to play it – the shooting has an automatic lock-on mechanic, although you can also play it like a twin-stick shooter if you so wish. There’s even a one-button cover system, and, all in all, there’s nothing awkward about how the game controls, and therefore it certainly shows Grand Theft Auto III, its inspiration, up for how clunky it really is.

The city of Theftropolis presents you with a number of things to do. You can stick to the reference-filled missions of the main storyline, or you can go off and hunt down spree missions as well as secrets within this 8-bit city. It’s also just fun driving around and seeing the mildly amusing names of some of the shops, which also often references pop culture.

Outside of the 7 hour story mode, Retro City Rampage also has a Free Roam mode, which allows you to drive through the city and do your own thing. Each of the side missions that you unlock throughout the story can also be quickly accessed in the Arcade Challenges options, which is handy when you just want to improve your scores and rankings in these missions, but don’t want to hop into a car to get to them first.

Visually, with its capturing of the 8-bit style and its top-down viewpoint, Retro City Rampage is utterly charming. The chiptune music is also a nice throwback, and, all in all, the love for all things retro has resulted in a game that very much looks and sounds as if it’s from the era that inspired it.

Retro City Rampage is a fun-filled and crazy game that is as busy with parodies as any other game that I can think of. It’s also highly amusing at times, and it’s clever to see how creator Brian Provinciano has incorporated all of the many references to 80s and 90s pop culture and patched them together, and will therefore be best enjoyed by players of a certain age. As a game, it’s also very playable and varied in its approach, but do expect moments that will infuriate you, which will bring back a mixture of good and bad memories for many a longtime gamer.