Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Retro City Rampage DX


If you’re a fan of classic gaming or popular culture (even better if both) and somehow haven’t played Retro City Rampage DX up to this point you’ve been missing out. Chock full of references, call-outs, cameos of sorts, and absolute insanity it expends a lot of effort to keep you engaged and having fun. The one downside, with it now on the Switch and having aged a number of years, is that those same references that were very fresh at the time can now feel a bit stale. Thankfully if you’re down for mayhem it still delivers that in spades.

Trying to describe the plot is a bit of a challenge since it is all quite silly and peppered with characters and bits of story borrowed from just about everything under the sun. While comparisons concerning its style are often made to the original Grand Theft Auto games to me the insanity of it all reminds me much more of the Saints Row series in spirit. Absolutely nothing is sacred, and the destruction you often cause is so silly that there’s almost no room for subtlety. For some this could wear a bit thin as warning, but I’d imagine most long-time gamers will find it all entertaining in bursts. It feels it was intended to be played shorter sessions and that would make sense with the fact that it has spent a lot of time on mobile platforms.

With that in mind while some titles play better on a large screen perhaps it isn’t surprising that I prefer to play River City Rampage DX in handheld mode while passively doing something else. The action is fun but for the most part not terribly intense, with some exceptions, but I find it great to help me blow off some steam and enjoy myself. There are certainly some problems you’ll need to solve and obstacles that you’ll need to focus on but if I just need to run around blowing up everything in sight it isn’t terribly strenuous, I actually find it relaxing.


Your options for play will consist of the Story Mode, where you’ll go through a series of both required and optional missions to collect pieces of a time machine (among other things) to advance the story along. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of things that you can do to get yourself off track though as temptations are everywhere from simply deciding to plow into a bunch of pedestrians and then try to lose the cops or by finding one of the spots that will throw you into a more arcade-like mode with an objective usually set on destruction. If you’re looking for a quick fix you’re more likely to want to gravitate to the straight-up arcade mode that will quickly let you choose between the missions you’re unlocked and get right down to the business of trying to get the best score. These missions usually only take a few minutes and are a great way to fill in the blanks of your day. Finally there’s also a Free Roaming Mode where you can simply do whatever catches your fancy within the game world for some fun.

At the end of the day this is a throwback 8-bit version of games with more modern sensibilities and it is well-executed. The controls are relatively simple and sensible, the action is varied enough (though usually centered on doing something illegal or insane), the silly references are abundant, and the amount of content means if you enjoy the game you’ll have something to play for quite a while if you want to do it all. If you’ve played it in one of its previous incarnations there’s nothing new here, it’s just on the Switch and probably in the most refined and versatile form it has ever been in. If you’re not into destruction and pop culture call-outs the game also isn’t likely for you. But if you’re in search of something light, fun, and packed with mischief it is a good time, even while showing its age.

Score: 7.5

Pros:

  • Modern mayhem-making gameplay in charming 8-bit form
  • If you’re into the humor and pop culture call-outs it can be a lot of fun
  • Practically perfect portable pandemonium!


Cons:

  • The cultural references have a tendency to show their age in places
  • The style of play isn’t for everyone
  • If you’re looking for depth of gameplay you won’t find much here


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