Nostalgia is quite the peculiar subject. It feeds off our favorite past moments and paints them into a beautifully crafted canvas. Even if those moments were actually not as great as we think they were, our minds make them feel like the greatest things ever. Video Games, as with various forms of media, are subject to weird nature of Nostalgia. So what do you get when you have a game that screams Nostalgia from head to toe? A game that is essentially based on countless pop-culture references from the past 30 years? A game that doesn’t take itself seriously, but parodies everything and anything it portrays?
You get Retro City Rampage.
Retro City Rampage is an open-world top-down 8-bit demake roughly based on the GTA games of old. The game is a mecca of pop-culture references as it’s filled with tons of popular icons, characters, and themes from the 80 & 90s. This makes Retro City Rampage essentially, a parody of all things pop-culture. If that wasn’t interesting enough, Retro City Rampage was technically created and self-published by a single person. Brian Provacano started working on the game back in 2002 and eventually evolved it into the form that it is at today. But while all those elements might sound like the perfect recipe for an amazing experience, there a several issues that prevent the game from reaching the heights it was destined for.
In Retro City Rampage you control the player, a thug for hire who often gets himself into really bizarre situations within the city of Theftopolis. During a bank heist that goes terribly wrong, the Player enters a time machine which causes him to accidentally travel forward in time and end up in the year 20XX. With the help of Doc Choc, an obvious reference to Doctor Emmet Brown from “Back to the Future”, the player takes on the task of repairing the time machine while taking down a plot that threatens the very fabric of time and space.
Once the opening minutes of Retro City Rampage conclude, the whole city of Theftopolis is spread wide open for you to explore. There are quite an abundance of things to do here and it takes a moment to fully appreciate it. You can drift off and do side-quests, visit different areas trying to figure out various references, or just continue on with the game’s main story. The main story consists of 50 missions that try to offer a diverse selection of locations to visit and tasks to accomplish. Through those story missions you will get to experience the game’s incredibly clever dialogue which offers both a handful of laughs and smirks throughout.
The brilliance of Reto City Rampage comes from its incredibly clever use of pop-culture references that make the whole game a lot more engrossing. Not only are those references spread all across the city of Theftopolis, but they’re always introduced in interesting ways. The introduction to Biffman for instance, *hint* Batman *hint*, is undoubtedly one of game’s shining moments as you try and find a way to breakthrough his giant mansion. It’s moments like these which keeps you engaged and on the look out for whats to come next.
While the first hour of Retro City Rampage might give you the impression that it’s all that you ever hoped for, some of its gameplay flaws start to become more apparent as you keep on playing. Level design, although quite varied, can still get frustrating at certain points. You often find yourself annoyed by weird checkpoint placements as well as an inconstancy in the pacing of the game’s story missions. Some of those missions do offer varying objectives, but there are a significant portion of them which feel like a collection of fetch quests. In addition, the game’s shooting and melee mechanics don’t feel satisfying enough to keep you engaged all the way. This eventually renders pop-culture references and appearances to be the sole driving force by the very end.
Retro City Rampage is in essence a celebration of pop-culture tightly packed into an over-the-top 8-bit open world game. However, it’s greatest asset is also one of its biggest weaknesses. At its highs, Retro City Rampage can leave you amazed at how well thought out some of the game’s parts were. However due to somewhat frustrating level designs, an iffy checkpoint system, and some sub-par gameplay mechanics, Retro City Rampage ends up feeling like a good game that could have been a hell of a lot more.
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