While the retro aesthetic is nothing new in the world of indie games, there are few that are committed to it as Retro City Rampage DX. It’s an obvious love letter to ‘80s pop-culture, with countless references to games, TV shows and movies scattered throughout the game’s city of Theftropolis. Even some of the missions are based around classic NES games, borrowing elements from titles such as Contra, Battletoads and Paperboy.
You play as… Player, who while working on a heist, steals a time-travelling phone box (Guess who from?) and ends up in the year 20XX. Player steps out of the phone box, to greeted by Doc Choc, who mistakes him for a time travelling hero and offers to help Player fix the time machine. However, the Doc needs Player to fetch several parts for the time machine to work again and Player is sent out into Theftropolis to find them.
Returning players will definitely notice the improvements in the DX upgrade, once back in the game. The game defaults to a zoomed in, widescreen view instead of the arcade-style 4:3 display it originally had. The big status bar at the top of the screen is gone, replaced by two small displays in either corner of the screen, giving you much more screen space to play with. Also when driving, the camera no longer centres on the player and gives you much more lead time to plan out where you’re going.
I won’t go into too much detail about the game’s missions, as I think doing so would spoil much of the fun and surprise of the game. Most of them are completed quickly, but there is a wide variety of them to play, to the point where I’m impressed by all the different types of gameplay that are accommodated for in the game. Each mission that is based of a game is like playing a snippet of a classic NES title. The DX update has also rebalanced all the missions and this is easily noticeable when comparing it to the original. The original game had some frustrating difficulty spikes and with few checkpoints in between, forcing a repeat of a mission over and over again. The DX upgrade definitely improves the situation, adding in more checkpoints and easing the difficulty down of some of the missions slightly.
When not working on a mission, the city of Theftropolis is free to be explored. There’s plenty of buildings you can actually enter and explore as well as different shops for weapons or customising your character, though I found myself only using these when I had to as part of a mission. The city is full of hidden jokes and 80’s references blended in carefully and naturally. While Retro City Rampage can be somewhat overbearing with all these pop-culture references, especially in the opening tutorial mission. Most of them are used for laughs, and the game is so silly and tongue in cheek, I think most players will find something to laugh about.
Given the short length of the missions, the game isn’t a particularly long one, not that this is a problem, mind you. It took me around six hours to complete all the main and side missions in the game and dabble with some of the arcade challenges. Given the way the game is essentially one long running joke, it chooses to go out on a high early rather than carry on and get tiring as a result.
Food for Thought:
For the purpose of this review, I primarily played the game on the PS4, but if you’re playing on PlayStation, I’d definitely recommend playing the Vita version over the other platforms. The quick missions are well suited to portable play and the game looks fantastic and sharp on the Vita’s vivid screen.