retrocity Reviews

Retro City Rampage DX Review: If Flashing Use Kit to Clean Away The Rage


Retro City Rampage was clearly a labor of love. It spent many years under different names and with variations on its core gameplay only to eventually release on multiple platforms in 2012. The game is a call back to many of the titles that made the Nintendo Entertainment System popular in the 1980’s. Thus it is fitting that it is now available on the 3DS eShop as Retro City Rampage: DX.

You’ve probably heard of the game before but here’s a brief description of Retro City Rampage DX: The game plays like a Grand Theft Auto open world action title but as if it was running on 8-bit hardware with simplistic but still visually striking graphics. Combat is over the top and includes video game industry staples like head stomping from the Mario Bros series as well as some stealth, cover-based gameplay reminding players of Metal Gear and others.

Humor is a big part of Retro City Rampage. The game is full of pop culture parodies that reference Back To The Future, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ghost Busters, and others. Some of the jokes fall flat and seem downright childish while others are witty and cut throat. The jabs at Microsoft are particularly comical and feel well deserved. You will laugh a lot during your time with the game even if some of the humor will make you roll your eyes.

There is a good variety to the story mode’s missions. Some task you with going from point A to point B in short order, some want you to go on rampages while others have you using stealth to accomplish your task. The story mode is balanced and well-paced, always throwing something new at you which keeps it from grating or becoming repetitive.

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That said, the variety doesn’t always help the game. There are some sections that are overly frustrating and entirely unnecessary. I understand that the developers tried to pack in as many references to classic franchises with gameplay mechanics that are call backs, but it feels like it gives the end product a bit of excess weight in the end.

Retro City Rampage is a hard game. Not broken or unfair, but a punishing game. That’s sort of intentional due to the games that inspired it but it should be noted that you will curse out your 3DS. You will want to put the system down for fear of breaking it at times. Most of the time this is your own fault and doesn’t feel overly cheap even if some sections have questionable design.

There were multiple times during my play through that the game left a sour taste in my mouth and didn’t compel me to play it again right away. While it is overall a quality adventure that certainly deserves to be on your 3DS’s SD card, it is easy to establish a love and hate relationship with the game.

The final mission is particularly long and will make you want to quit playing. If you didn’t notice by this point in the game, every time your character, Player, dies you’ll be shown the number of times you’ve died overall. This is funny at first, almost mocking the player. Once you’ve died 50+ times during the long final mission you’ll begin to resent that screen for telling you how many lives you’ve lost.

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During the last story mission you’ll have to explore highly dangerous areas (a castle, of course) and basically get killed repeatedly until you figure out something that was never clear to begin with. Perhaps that’s intentional as the games Retro City Rampage parodies were flawed in that way when they originally came out. Yet this is 2014 and it’s not necessary to replicate the frustrating, unclear nature of 80’s console games at all.

One section asks you to find an exit while surrounded by enemies with rocket launchers, basically making the situation a one-hit kill scenario for the player. The problem is there is no real indication where this exit is and when you do find it you will do so by mistake not because the game dropped clever hints as to where it is.

Retro City Rampage DX does give players a bit of a helping hand when it comes to some of its more difficult parts. The game will provide you with a tips screen after dying to remind you of what you need to be doing and what weapons/methods of attack you should use. Each mission requires a certain level of strategy that can differ wildly between each of them so don’t think this is just a shooter. Stealth, platforming and even a bit of puzzle solving will be necessary to complete this adventure.

In addition to the story mode there are several unlockable arcade challenges to play through that amp up the insanity to eleven. These serve as great, bite-sized doses of pure fun if you only have a few moments on the way to work or school to play. The free roam mode, obviously, allows you to cause destruction across Theftropolis at your discretion. These two modes alone would provide enough value to justify a $10 eShop investment.

There is a good mix of mini-games to play as well with appearances from Meat Boy from Super Meat Boy and Commander Video from Bit.Trip Runner. These are all nice additions and can be easily missed so keep an eye peeled for them. Players can customize Player’s (get it!?) appearance throughout the game as you unlock comical styles. The game also includes the content from all 16 updates to the PC version of the original so you’re getting the full experience if you decide to go with the 3DS version.

Cheat codes are hidden around the city and can be fun to mess around with, causing mayhem around the city with little consequences. One gripe is that you can’t save your progress during the story mode while using cheat codes. At one point I accidentally entered a code that I found and after causing some chaos, I exited back to the game’s title screen so I could continue playing story missions and save the game. I expected that to suffice as the game warns you about the no-saving feature while cheats are activated.

The game doesn’t tell you, at least to my knowledge, that you really have to exit all the way back to the 3DS system menu to disable this feature. So naturally it was annoying to clear several missions and then discover that I had to replay them again as I couldn’t save. Remember folks, you have to exit all the way back to the system menu and not the game’s title screen to enable saving after entering a cheat code.

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Visually the game is unique, simple and engaging. Design of characters who are meant to be parodies (like Buttnick) are done particularly well. The city is beaming with personality and is over flowing with charm. Will it win any graphics awards? Maybe not but the art style is well thought out and fits the bill well with nothing breaking the whole 8-bit theme or looking like it couldn’t have happened on an 8-bit machine theoretically.

The music is fittingly great as well seeing as the game intends to remind players of past 8-bit games that were known for their superb soundtracks. There aren’t a lot of tunes to listen to as you drive across Theftropolis but the one’s we got are catchy, rhythmic and have a nice variety to them. You will want to play the game with headphones on as the soundtrack is great and can only be appreciated with a solid pair of headphones to make up for the 3DS’s speaker’s shortcomings.

Retro City Rampage DX should be on your Nintendo 3DS right now. While it has some frustrating moments and certainly isn’t perfect, the positives outweigh the negatives. A great soundtrack, some pretty good comedy, and over the top gameplay make it well worth the $15 it originally costed on other platforms, let alone $10 on the eShop. The 3DS version is just as good as any other version of the game and if you play it alone. If you already own Retro City Rampage the 3DS version is well worth double dipping just for the sake of portability.

Gameplay 85%
Visuals 90%
Entertainment 75%
Intangibles 70%
Value 85%
Final Thoughts

Retro City Rampage DX has its problems but overall the game is a must-have. The music, art and gameplay are superb and help to offset some of those issues. This should be on your 3DS yesterday.

Overall Score 81%