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Retro City Rampage Preview (Vita)

June 6, 2012 Written by Nick Michetti

Retro City Rampage is a game long anticipated by many gamers — it’s a creative and intriguing blend of NES era gameplay, arcade gameplay, and open-world gameplay. The mission that was playable at E3 certainly didn’t help the wait any. Retro City Rampage seems just as fun, just as old school, and just as great as gamers hoped it would be. The title’s mix of gameplay approaches and focus on old-fashioned entertainment with a sense of humor make for a game that impresses right away. With RCR‘s pending arrival on PlayStation Vita, it could be a PSN hit for the platform, in addition to a game that some will find themselves having a hard time removing from their pockets

When playing RCR, a general rule exists: the player should never presume to know what to expect. The game tosses out a curveball of nostalgia and awesome in its E3 demo with a chaotic 8-bit homage/parody of the memorable bank heist sequence to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which saw the Joker rob a bank and escape in a school bus, which pulled out of the bank and into a lane of school buses prior to the police’s arrival. A representative for the game confirmed my immediate recognition, which sees the player — a hired gun in the world of Theftropolis City in the 1980s — working for an employer named “Jester.”

The player breaks into the bank with Jester and then is tasked with driving the school bus into the lanes of other school buses. The other school buses won’t allow the player into the lane, so Jester sends the player across the street to activate the crosswalk to get the buses to slow down, but not before offering him a power-up that will enable him to jump across the street — but with what seemed like the player scouting for a prime opportunity to make the leap at the right moment in a possible (but not certain) parody of/homage to Frogger.

In a different sequence, the player is going to rob a different locale, only the police are onto him. The player is introduced to cover — that’s right, cover mechanics in an 8-bit styled game with an overhead camera — as he dodges gunfire from the police. Taking cover was not vital, but definitely helpful, in this sequence. In another, the player is battling on the street and who should pop out from a sewer but some suspicious looking green ninjas — who a representative confirmed to me were in fact a parody of/homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (TMNT isn’t the only television show that’ll be parodied in RCR, though, as Saved By The Bell and The A-Team were both mentioned as well.)

RCR‘s mix of styles is effortless and faithful to both old school and new-school masters at the same time. To balance the 8-bit style graphics, the arcade reminiscent “Go!” signs with arrows, and bits of old school gameplay are carjackings, guns, and taking cover in the same style as open-world titles. The mix is potent, polished, and appears to work well — that’s not to mention the game’s sheer “pick up and play” accessibility. What’s even more surprising is that the game offers multiple modes: Story (traditionally structured), Arcade (which allows players to “go nuts”) and Free Roam (which allows players to explore the world without having to worry about the linearity of the Story Mode). However, those aren’t all of the gameplay offerings, either, as the game also offers 8-bit versions of Bit.Trip Runner, Splosion Man, and Meat Boy.

Retro City Rampage is a title that will easily entertain, whether on PlayStation Vita or any of the other numerous platforms that the game has been confirmed for (PS3/PSN, XBLA, WiiWare, & Steam). The seamless merger of different types of gameplay combined with the heavy dose of nostalgia and number of modes make it a game that few gamers — especially those with roots in gaming’s 8-bit past — will be able to resist. Retro City Rampage is said to be coming out as soon as possible (publisher discussions are currently ongoing) and whenever that it is, after that impressive E3 demo, it certainly won’t be soon enough.