Retro City Rampage is an amusing throwback title. Not every game requires an Oscar-worthy story or gorgeous visuals. Sometimes clever gameplay design can overcome any shortcoming, as is the case with RCR. I became addicted to its charming brand of 8-bit mayhem. For some reason, the vintage aesthetic made maiming innocent bystanders entertaining again. The entire experience was just stupid fun, like messing with a toy.

RCR plays like a mixture of GTA and Super Mario Bros. While the idea sounds far-fetched, it is executed wonderfully. The controls are fluid like a Nintendo sidescroller, but the combat feels modern. Heck, the game even has a decent cover system. I personally didn’t use it much, yet one-off mechanics are the norm in RCR. Each of the 62 missions has its own gimmick, yet never seems lazily constructed. This plays to the “I need something new every 5 minutes” crowd.

[quote_center]If the game had a common denominator for every stage, it would be senseless killing[/quote_center]

If the game had a common denominator for every stage, it would be senseless killing. Thousands of 8-bit pedestrians inadvertently died on my unholy quest.They also serve as the scapegoats of many killing spree challenges, much like in recent Saints Row titles. My personal favorite involves running about on fire, trying to tag bystanders and start a chain blaze. These bits are the best part of an otherwise standard open-world. Only one element occasionally sours the design: unfair spikes in difficulty. A few of the final levels in RCR are infuriating trial-and-error obstacle courses. I just get steamed at these sections, but masochistic gamers may rejoice.

retro city rampage screen

The 8-bit production values are another highlight, and lend RCR a great deal of personality. Environments are very readable, yet retain a perfectly slight charm to keep things distinct. Many hilarious animations are also sprinkled throughout cutscenes to avoid looking too much like a stiff NES game. The chiptune soundtrack is a treat, although even the sweetest treats become unappetizing in excess. RCR recycles themes for missions and vehicle radio tracks too often. A few of them are even borderline plagiarisms of classic Capcom/Nintendo material, which walks a thin line between distasteful rip-off and homage. However,the brilliant sound effects compensate for any shortcomings of the score. Beeps, boops, and crackles are all flawlessly executed for maximum nostalgia. RCR should serve as an inspirational production model for future 8-bit game designers.

The narrative in RCR has little value because the writing is relentlessly nonsensical and arbitrary. Brian Provinciano, the creator, was clearly a child of the 1980s. RCR is brimming with antiquated references, beginning with the plot. You are cast as a lazy thug named PLAYER who is transported to the future by a hare-brained scientist experimenting with a car altered into a time machine. Appearing in the year 20XX, PLAYER must gather scattered parts to repair the damaged machine and return home. Nothing about the script is particularly daring or ingenious; I occasionally laughed at a crude joke or parody. Honestly, RCR often tries too hard to be comical. However, generation-X gamers may find the zany humor and allusions more appealing.

Wrap Up

Overall, Retro City Rampage is the gaming equivalent of candy. It is sweetly addictive and comes in a colorful package. The wrapper can get stuck to the sweet, meaning you might have to struggle a bit to loosen and enjoy it. However, the sugary buzz is worth it.

score of 7

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