January 22, 2013 by khrisgolder
No, it’s not a sequel to River City Ransom. Retro City Rampage’s parody title represents everything about the game: lampoon the NES era of video gaming. In titles, characters, and format: Retro City Rampage roasts 8bit gaming with the burners set on high. We all love a good parody, but sometimes game parodies are a bit hollow (often more clone-like than intended). Is Retro City Rampage able to stand on its own feet or is it merely riding the coattails of its iconic NES inspirations?
Walk into the world of Retro City Rampage. The main antihero, named Player, is a vigilante climbing the ranks of the crime world. After a most-excellent time travel accident, Player has to find the pieces to an iconic time machine in order to travel back in time. That’s about as serious as the storyline gets. The plot isn’t much more than a parody device, and it’s what makes Retro City Rampage an XBLA must have. Cutscenes feature classic NES boxes and still frames, and they’re usually a reference to another classic NES game. In the first five minutes, the player gets a taste of Duck Hunt, Mega Man, GTA, Mario, Turtles and more.
Retro City Rampage throws out more references than almost any other parody game in existence, and it would take the most hardcore NES fans to catch every one of them. Bill & Ted jumps right into Back to the Future. The parodies are endless, featuring characters like Major Lee Solid, Doc Choc (Doc Brown), and a number of other surprise character spoofs. A few are less inspired (Dr. Von Buttnick), but they’re all pretty amusing. Sometimes, brief cameos are inferred: a squished frog or a go-Kart named Kartio. Quick commands like get to the chopper. It even features surprise appearances from current video game arcade characters. Delivered in a cute 8bit package, the game has a brilliant charm.
Some pretty funny lines are sprinkled throughout the game. Major Lee Solid asks Player if he can take care of some trivial odd jobs in exchange for his help. Player replies, “Not a problem. Running from A to B and doing random things is my specialty.”
There are a number of deliberate typos and grammar issues, another genius parody of the bad edits of NES text boxes. After sneaking into Geronimo Base, Player calls up Major Lee to tell him, “A truck are begin to move.” He replies, “I was feel slept. Leave massage.”
NES narrative aside, the game operates very much like GTA (the original). The view is over-the-top, the bullets are tiny and bulbous, and the driving is all cartoony physics. It even features ‘challenges’ where Player can go on a killing spree. The first challenge tutorial is delivered in Player’s sleep during a dream sequence. The tutorial continues after he falls asleep in his dream: a sequence called Killception. These types of challenges can be saved for future viewings.
Retro City Rampage features a cover system, which is the funniest thing in the world to see in an 8bit game. It’s a riot to see Player duck in his little 8bit crouch, and it’s a practical addition to the classic gameplay.
The targeting system is actually pretty impressive. Once Player starts firing on an object, the player can hold the button down to remain locked on an object or enemy. The worst part about the targeting system is that enemy A.I. can duck behind cover, too. This makes the auto targeting a bit less important, but it makes gunfights on foot a lot easier than having to exercise dual stick shooting precision (not hard, but convenient).
The game allows the player to collect the necessary parts to the time machine or focus on a number of open world activities called second-rate stages. Become a Paperboy. Enter into people’s homes and collect the hidden loot bags or steal their TVs. Play one of the several in-game arcade titles (each with at least 5-20 minutes of playtime). Change the skin of your character by getting a haircut or unlocking one of the other preset playable characters. Or just cruise the streets and wreak havoc.
Presentation – Guilt-free NES parody machine by means of open-world action.
Optimization – The game runs fairly well barring the obvious frustrations with over-the-top driving and shooting; it plays how it’s supposed to play.
Ingenuity – The game is a patchwork of redundancy, but it picks the best from each game it emulates.
Sound – Classic 8bit tunes that definitely adds to the atmosphere.
Entertainment – High replay value with all the main missions, challenges, sidequests, and leaderboard scores.
Retro City Rampage offers gamers a plateful of mockery and nostalgia through its 8bit magnetism. It encourages the replay of many of the games it imitates. It is the ideal XBLA title: simple, fun, and has a genuine pickup and play formula. It’s loaded with hours of details and references, and is worth at least one play through. Retro City Rampage might be a patchwork of redundant concepts, but the delivery is as clever as it is entertaining.
GamerCheese Final Score: 4.0 out of 5.0