Retro City Rampage is a retro GTA style game that places itself very much in the homage category of gaming. It’s been in the background of the gaming world for quite a few years now, popping up at Expo’s around the world, including the Rezzed gaming Expo in Brighton, where I got chance to see it, but not play it, a few months back. It finally landed on Steam last week and I thought i’d take a gamble and see what it had to offer beyond it’s blatant love for the 1980’s.
It starts off pummeling you with 80’s and 90’s gaming and movie references that within the first hour of playing include; Bill & Ted, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metal Gear Solid, Mario and Sonic. Every opportunity it gets, there’s a nodding wink back to the past. It’s set in an original GTA top down style universe where you play as “Player” who accidentally travels through time and ends up having to get Doc Choc (basically Doc Emmett Brown from Back to the Future) to help him create a time travelling vehicle to get him back. In order to do this you have to go round the city doing various missions to get particular pieces, which include stealing cars and cashing them in, a paperboy level where you have to deliver a certain amount of papers in a minute and a trailing level where you have to follow “Biffman” to his secret lair.
It was this particular mission that made me realise that after an hour and a half of playing this game, it really wasn’t offering me anything new to think about. The mission starts by explaining to you that this is one of those typical levels that everyone hates where you have to stay an appropriate distance behind the car infront so as not to raise suspicion. It then makes you play the level in exactly the same way that it deplores other games for playing like. The game really seems to be all surface and no depth. Don’t get me wrong, i’m only a third of the way through it, so this may change, but it really doesn’t feel like it will. The references are humorous but the gameplay doesn’t offer anything to inspire you to keep playing. It’s a shame as the game is a blatant love note to the past few decades of gaming but unfortunately for me the mechanisms for which to enjoy it just aren’t there.
There have been a number of retro style games that have come out in the past year that we have loved playing, games such as McPixel and Fez have definitely won our hearts over but for me Retro City Rampage plays as weathered as it’s references and this means that based on that first few hours with it I can’t recommend it.