Review: Retro City Rampage brings its incredible vintage-flavored gameplay to XBLA

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The main character of Retro City Rampage is a street hooligan by the name of Player. The leather jacket-wearing, mullet-sporting thug finds himself in the middle of a good old-fashioned heist at the start of the game but things quickly go awry. He’s then forced to help a senile, clueless scientist repair his time machine. This is hardly a legendary tale, but then it was never supposed to be. Retro City Rampage is a lighthearted action-adventure game that’s strong because of its wacky writing, and it proudly wears its silliness on its sleeve.

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In addition to the funny script and characters, the game features countless hilarious references to ‘80s pop culture. This only serves to strengthen the humor in Retro City Rampage, and you’re bound to find several surprises and pleasantly nostalgic nods. It’s awesome running amok and witnessing Ninja Turtles references or driving around and seeing a building called Bundy’s Wedding Chapel. It’s also remarkably satisfying helping out a dude with an eye patch who tells you, “I was feel slept. Leave massage.” Nothing like some friendly Engrish to lighten up an action game.

Thankfully, Retro City Rampage isn’t just a funny game — it’s also a good game. There’s a string of missions that you can follow to progress the story and these objectives are quite enjoyable. You’re usually required to drive to a specific location and fulfill certain tasks such as committing a robbery, blowing stuff up, or even taking on a school principle and a band of bullies. The missions are a lot of fun and constantly plug numerous old school references throughout.

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You can travel across the city of Theftropolis in true open world fashion and create mayhem or engage in side quests. A lot of the optional jobs consist of achieving high scores to collect gold medals. These side missions range from blowing up as many cars as possible with a rocket launcher to using melee weapons to dispose of civilians. The action is fast-paced, and it can get pretty challenging trying to reach those high scores. When you’re not fulfilling these objectives, you can drive around Theftropolis and run over long lines of pedestrians or get involved in some sweet high speed car chases.

Retro City Rampage offers a fairly sizable map to explore and tear through, and it presents it in a lovely 8-bit visual style. The game looks like a true NES title from the ’80s, and there’s a distinct level of faithful homage here. There are several options you can play around with to make the game look even crazier. Want to give your adventure a hint of Sega Genesis flavor? Switch on the Blurst Processor option. Perhaps you’d like to see what Theftropolis looks like on an old school monochrome handheld. There’s an option for that, too.

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This game doesn’t just look like an ‘80s title. Retro City Rampage also sounds like something you’d hear at the height of the NES era. Countless incredible chiptunes have been provided for the game courtesy of composers Freaky DNA, Norrin Radd, and virt, and they’re all quite catchy and fun to listen to as you tear Theftropolis apart, rob its citizens, and battle its police force.

In my previous review of Retro City Rampage, I stated that this wasn’t just a tribute to NES games, and I still stand by that. Brian Provinciano has crafted something more than that — he’s gone the extra step and instead of developing an homage to retro video games, he actually made a retro video game. Retro City Rampage isn’t for everyone, and its high level of challenge in later stages can be a bit off-putting. That said, if you adore vintage video games and have an adulation for some clever referential humor, this 8-bit crime adventure is definitely worth experiencing. The game is a riot, and now that it’s on Xbox Live Arcade, another audience can have a raucous good time with it.

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