Portable Perks: Retro City Rampage
The more I play Retro City Rampage, the more I’m convinced that it’s not retro at all. For all its 8-bit trappings, the game features a weapon lock-on system, a cover system, a stomp attack while jumping, a twin-stick shooter shooting scheme, numerous (and humorous) ways to customize your character, and lets you roam freely in a fairly large city. If a remake takes a game several generations old and updates its presentation to current standards while maintaining the same gameplay systems, then surely RCR is the Mirror Universe version of what a remake is supposed to be.
And it’s brilliant.
RCR is the game I’ve always subconsciously fantasized about during my phase in grade school when my primary pastime was daydreaming about sequels to all my favorite games. What if Simon Belmont could use a sword? What if player 2 could control Ryu Hayabusa’s shadows? What if Tetris had physics? What if the next Mega Man had like 30 robot masters and it took forever to beat them all?
Retro City Rampage would have blown that kid’s mind and liquified it into a swirling gray matter slurry before it came down and splattered all over the floor. If you asked 8-year-old me about what one can do in RCR, I would only ever describe it in one way:
“You can do anything!”
RCR is a Grand Theft Auto demake complete with authentic-sounding upbeat chiptune music and the staccato 8-bit fade to black effect that all children of the 80s instinctively recognize, but it’s also a never-ending barrage of references to old games and retro gamer culture. Think of the time that the Street Fighter 2 introduction played out in Super Meat Boy and multiply the occurrence by, say, ten thousand. That’s how the game works: one minute you’re sneaking around in a Metal Gear-esque dirt lot complete with bad engrish dialogue, and the next, you’re ducking into big green pipes and inexplicably flying out of other big green pipes. If you played your fair share of NES/Famicom classics back in the day, you’ll recognize more than a few shout-outs.
All these take place inside the game’s linear missions, which are activated in true GTA fashion by walking into a letter icon during the free-roam portion of the game. The missions are divided into several stages, and it’s in these stages that the madcap action-slash-reference dropping occurs.
Before we go on, let’s look at what platforms RCR is available on. This is Portable Perks, so I’ve obviously been playing it on my Vita. It’s pretty damn good, and I actually recommend experiencing this game on the handheld. Here’s why.
The stages in RCR unfold at a breakneck speed -- almost comparable to how WarioWare’s microgames are paced. Each mission is a constant flurry of activity, where you’ll drive vehicles, shoot baddies, throw explosives, hide behind crates, and more. Die and you’ll be dropped right back into the action, not far from where you previously perished (but only after a lightning-fast interlude that displays how many lives you have left -- it starts at 0 and keeps counting down with every subsequent death). The tasks and the gameplay themselves are not complex or involving enough to capture your attention for any long stretch of time, but it’s perfect for taking super-brief breaks in between longer tasks, like when you’re playing a game with long loading screens, cooking a meal, building some furniture, or taking care of your children.
The activities you’ll be doing aren’t particularly challenging, but there’s some good variety here to mix things up while you’re busy trying to decipher all the references in the game.
In keeping with the Mirror Universe Retro theme, RCR has some amusing display options available. The game is of course presented in a fullscreen 4:3 format, which frees up the edges of your screen to display a suitably 80s-looking frame of your choice, be it an arcade cabinet or what looks like the first TV your parents ever owned. There’s also some color display choices, including the eye-straining CGA display option if you ever feel that games today are not Alley Cat-esque enough.
The game has been recently patched with the Retro+ display option, which adds shadows and doubles the number of colors displayed onscreen for players who like retro but not too retro. It’s quite a complete package for people looking for entertaining gameplay wrapped in the most gimmicky presentation ever.
Bottom line? Play it. In fact, you can buy it on PSN right now for $5.00. FIVE DOLLARS. It’s a cross-buy title, so you’ll also get the PS3 version of RCR in case you don’t have any games with long loading screens to play, or meals to cook, or furniture to build, or children. It’s a great time waster that won’t waste too much of your time.