You Should Have Played… Retro City Rampage
When we looked at Retro City Rampage at the end of last year, we highlighted it as one of the most interesting titles to take inspiration from the past and re-interpret it for a modern audience. A heady nostalgia cocktail, it was a game firmly routed in allusions and parody; a game that you could enjoy if you were under 25, but that would only really come into its own if you had played all those titles it knowingly referenced the first time round. If, at some point in your past, 8 bit games were your whole world, then Retro City Rampage is something you quite simply have to play.
As we mentioned before, the game has a storied past. It started as a NES demake of GTA, but over time it morphed into something far more. While it may play like the classic top down GTA’s, it has gameplay sections that play like Duck Hunt, Metal Gear, Contra, Punch-Out!, Mega Man, Back To The Future, Crank, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mario, The A-Team!, Paperboy, Frogger and more. It’s not shy about its references either, when you get in a Delorean or defeat a green shelled martial arts sewer dweller, the game is nudging and winking at you so much you’ll think its having a stroke. Retro City Rampage is as pure a hit of nostalgia as you can get without actually going back in your own time machine to the eighties.
And while you might think the constant references to past games would get cloying after a while, they’re done so smartly and so subtly that you can’t help but fall in love with the game. Its art style isn’t just a modern idea of a retro look, it actually IS an 8 Bit game pulled into the modern age and given a modern frame rate and colour palette. This means that when the game does something cute like have two time travelling heroes emerge from a phone box with a bunch of historical figures in tow, those historical figures are insanely adorable little sprites that you can JUST ABOUT recognise as Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid and So-Crates.
And this attention to historical detail extends to every aspect of the game, from the menu screens to the (excellent) chip tunes music to the arcade overlays around the border of the screen. These are something that immediately took me back to the arcades of my youth and gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling deep in my gamer soul.
And that’s the only problem with Retro City Rampage. It is, at its core, a simple game. You drive around on a top down map completing missions, following a hilariously nonsensical story with occasional forays into different gameplay types based on classic 8 Bit titles. If you didn’t play those games first time round then a lot of the jokes and references will go over your head. Even if you are familiar with the games but didn’t live through the 80’s then a lot of the games charm will be lost on you too.
If you DID live through the 80’s though, and if your youth was anything like mine, then Retro City Rampage is quite simply essential. The game itself is great (stupid) fun, but the nostalgia you will feel at all the little references will refill your gamer spirit (or mana if you prefer).
And its funny. I mean laugh-out-loud funny. How many other games have you played where time travel in the Back to the Future Delorean to meet Bill and Ted?
Retro City Rampage is now out on both Xbox Live Arcade and PSN