Retro City Rampage

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 00:00

12 cert, Xbox Live (also PC and coming soon to PS3, PS Vita and WiiWare) ****

It’s appropriate that time travel is referred to numerous times in Retro City Rampage, a brisk and vibrant action game that catapults you to the ’80s and ’90s. The title it most strongly resembles is the original Grand Theft Auto – combining gunplay with exploration and the eponymous vehicle theft, all presented in a colourful 8-bit style.

But that doesn’t begin to do it justice. Retro City Rampage works as both a knowing, funny narrative and as a smorgasbord of retro minigames. Shoot, drive, fly, jump and sneak your way through the criminal underworld of Theftropolis. Or simply amble around the sandbox and dip into alternate levels and worlds to partake in a number of old-school genres (racing, platform games, etc).

There are dozens of levels, vehicles (including a familiar looking ape) and weapons, as well as countless references to both games and pop culture from decades past. The onscreen text even has malapropisms – a nod to a time when videogame dialogue was often badly translated.

Retro City Rampage, with its 2D, blocky graphics and synth score is an instant injection of nostalgia for this thirtysomething gamer. But I can’t help wonder what younger fans will make of it. I imagine that after adjusting to the bright colour palette, they’d be hooked on the diverse gameplay, distinctive presentation and wry sense of humour.

More than just homage, Retro City Rampage has its own personality and feels like a lost classic from the time of Nintendo Entertainment Systems and Commodore 64s. Only this time, you can enjoy the game without cassettes, cartridges, long load times, sluggish joysticks or your mother yelling for you to do your homework. A treat.