Tuesday, May 7

Review: Shakedown - Hawaii [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Retro City Rampage DX was a pretty unique title on the Switch, offering up a top-down mayhem simulator full of pop culture jokes, explosions, and random violence. While it was fun to play in bursts, blowing some things up real good and having some fun, it also wasn’t terribly deep and its references at the time were a little dated, missing roughly as often as they connected. Fast forward to now and the folks at Vblank Entertainment who were behind that original have returned with the similar-but improved-Shakedown: Hawaii, which shares many of the same sensibilities but with an upgraded 16-bit look and a more satirical sense of humor.

Playing as an out-of-touch CEO whose sources of revenue of have dried up as he’s gotten behind the times, your goal is to turn things around by whatever means possible. Played for laughs with a “fish out of water” approach, your character’s perspective is that of an old person who can’t quite grasp modern trends. This makes the humor a little more timeless than that of RCR, as old people being unable to adapt is only half of the picture, the game is also often skewering how ridiculous and silly many modern trends are to begin with. While some jokes work better than others, they cast a wide net in terms of what they poke fun at and most of them should be relatable to almost anyone.

In terms of how this story works with the action you’re pretty well in a constant state of having new problems that arise that you need to address. On a mission-by-mission basis this typically means getting your hands dirty, whether extorting local businesses for protection, buying real estate and then benefitting from a “terrible accident” that levels the site and clears the way for new development, or any number of other underhanded schemes. At times, for the sake of providing some variety, you’ll take control of the CEO’s son who is a budding criminal himself, or you’ll play as a heavy hitter overseas who’ll shoot up the likes of drug cartels to help open new lines of business opportunities down south.

Everything in the story is ultimately geared towards helping you understand new ways of earning revenue. Some forms are cheap, like strong-arming people for protection money (though what you may need to do to earn it varies wildly at times), while others require a more serious investment, and to top it off there are then a variety of schemes you can apply to help multiply your profits as well. In practice there’s almost a breakneck pace to this, and while at any time you can simply run off and do what you like you’ll want to stick with the story since new avenues and opportunities keep unlocking the further you get.

Whether by running off to just cause some chaos in the story mode or by taking on more directed (and violent) challenges in the arcade mode pretty well all of the action in the game is bite-sized in nature. This is double-edged sword though as it makes it work well for pick up and play on the go but it also leaves everything feeling a bit shallow. There are only so many ways to intimidate people or destroy buildings, and while there are some fun variations that come into play it doesn’t amount to much variety. In terms of the games economics I’m not sure everything was that well thought out either, there’s almost a kitchen sink approach here with loads of different ways to make a buck, but with many of them hidden within menus and submenus that are a bit cumbersome and cause the fun to dry up in a hurry. People who enjoy “clicker games” and sitting back to watch the money roll in may find all of that satisfying but the movement away from the game’s core action seems like a distraction and to a degree time wasted on a tangent.

There’s no doubt that if you’re looking for a pretty mindless sandbox where you can enjoy blowing things up, getting into gunfights, and generally being a menace Shakedown: Hawaii provides you with ample opportunities for just that. In the attempt to frame that in a story and move in the direction of some world building as you try to rebuild your empire there are some hits and misses. The story, with its quick and pretty repetitive missions, moves quickly and almost at a breakneck pace if you stick to it without running off to do your own thing. The financial acquisition part you can pretty well break if you just gobble up as much protection money early on and then just sit on the constant flow of revenue. I actually like Shakedown: Hawaii more than its predecessor in terms of the experience but there’s no denying it has some struggles if you’re looking for an experience with any depth.

Score: 7.5

  • A great 16-bit sandbox for chaos and destruction
  • The game’s satire doesn’t always connect but I think works better than its predecessor’s tendency towards pop culture references that quickly got dated
  • Works well for play on the go with almost all missions being bite-sized

  • All missions being shorter also makes them all feel more repetitive and shallow
  • While the concept of taking over the island piece by piece is a decent one in execution it involves too many menus and is honestly too easy to break if you’re willing to put in the time up front
  • In terms of core gameplay it hasn’t evolved greatly from its predecessor