Retro City Rampage DX wears its influences on its sleeve more than any other game I’ve played this year. It treats its references to 80s pop culture with care and love. One of the best parts of this game is being introduced to a character and realizing where the inspiration was taken from. At its core, Retro City Rampage DX is a complete open world title similar to the Grand Theft Auto titles. Unfortunately, if you’re not nostalgic for 80s franchises, some of the charms of this game will be lost on you. I believe it is possible to appreciate all the love and effort it took to create Retro City Rampage DX without being nostalgic for the time in which it’s inspired by.
Great Scott! Er, I mean, good gosh!
Retro City Rampage DX begins with Player, the main character, being hired by the Jester to conduct a high profile bank heist. Near the end of the heist, things go wrong. As Player runs away from the police, he discovers a phone booth that he then enters to escape. He realizes it is a time traveling phone booth, and he is transported to the future in the year 20XX. As soon as he arrives, Player meets a character named Doc Choc, who is a parody and reference to Doc Brown from the Back to the Future films. Player and Doc team up together to collect the parts needed to repair the time traveling phone booth. On their quest to repair the phone booth, Player encounters many references to 80s era video games and pop culture such as Mario Bros. and Saved By The Bell.
I understand that Retro City Rampage DX is essentially a love letter to all of these 80s movies, games, and other forms of pop culture. Unfortunately, and most likely because I was born in the 90s, it doesn’t do much for me. I can appreciate the Ninja Turtles jumping out of a manhole and chasing you, and I can also appreciate Doc Choc’s dialogue as I can easily read it in Doc Brown’s voice, but I’m not nostalgic for most of these things. I understand that a lot of the charm of the game is lost on me because of this, but I do appreciate how they handle references and make an effort to introduce them consistently (even though at times they can be overdone).
80s Galore in 8-bit Glory
This game is completely unapologetic about its style and its influences. Retro City Rampage DX makes a constant effort to prove that it is an 80s era game paying homage to 80/90s pop culture across various forms of media. Within the first 5 minutes of the game, I was able to catch references to Frogger, Mario Bros., the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dr. Who, and Back to the Future. From the music to the sound effects, to its graphics, Retro City Rampage DX goes above and beyond in accomplishing that goal. The Nintendo Switch version does not have any exclusive features like HD Rumble.
Grand Theft Auto Without the “Realism”
If you have played a Grand Theft Auto game before, you understand how easy it is to get lost in just doing whatever you want. You don’t have to touch the main or side quests to have a good time in Retro City Rampage DX. You can hop into the open world, and immediately start creating havoc. You can steal cars, shoot people, beat people up with your fists or weapons like a guitar, and even stomp on their heads. The game rewards you with achievements, score counters, and costumes for just going about messing with everything in sight. Of course, there is way more to do in this game than just go wild. Retro City Rampage DX features more than 60 stages, both main and side quests. These quests vary from simple go kill these people, to steal this car, to sneak into this building missions. They’re not exactly original, and at times can feel kind of numbing. That isn’t to say there aren’t some missions that stand out. One of my personal favorite quests was one where you had to deliver newspapers on a bike, similar to the NES title Paperboy. Retro City Rampage DX also features minigames like gambling at the casino, arcade challenges, a free roam mode, and the option to customize your character, car, and even play as special guest characters like Steve from Minecraft.
Retro City Rampage DX, for all that it gets right in terms of 80s style graphics, is visually cluttered. At first, it was easy to lose sight of my character when there were so many things going on. On top of this, it’s quite easy to get lost as well because some areas look the same. I attribute this to the style of the game, as the detail has to be limited in order to fit the 8-bit style feel. Another concern I have with Retro City Rampage DX is with its controls. The game provides you with plenty of tutorials on how to use mechanics like stomping on people’s heads, locking on to aim, and how to use the cover system. Each one of these mechanics are not exactly intuitive. Because of its top down nature, stomping on people’s heads is a way more difficult task than to simply punch an enemy to death. Holding down the Y button to aim doesn’t always lock on to the person you want to be shooting at, and I never even used the cover system except for when the game told me it was there (and that I had to use it).
Retro City Rampage DX brings the mindless mayhem of the early Grand Theft Auto titles to the charm of 8-bit games and the nostalgia of 80/90s nerdy pop culture. For a game with a small file size, Retro City Rampage DX creates a complete open-world with plenty to do. If you’re nostalgic for the 80s, Retro City Rampage DX was made for you. If you’re looking for a charming Grand Theft Auto clone, this game can be a good fit. I can appreciate what the game is trying to accomplish, but ultimately I don’t believe it’s anything more than good. Retro City Rampage DX is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99.