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Retro City Rampage

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VBLANK Entertainment
2012
Genre:
Action
Theme:
Cartoon & Comic / Driving / Fighting /
Humour / Police & Gangsters
Language:
English, Français, Italiano, Deutsch, Español
Licence:
Commercial
System:
PC (Windows)
Views:
7199

Rating [?]

Mr Creosote:
5/6
Overall:
5/6
Popular Vote:
5/6
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Screenshots

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Local Reviews

Mr Creosote (2013-01-05) [hide]

Avatar Retro City Rampage calls itself a parody. Putting the likely legal reasons for this badge aside, there are (broadly speaking) two kinds of parodies: biting satires and warmly affectionate ones. RCR clearly falls into the latter category. It is a tour de force crammed full of references to (mainly) 1980s pop culture, both in style and contents.

retro_city_rampage_006.png
The Player being transported in an ambulance
The protagonist, simply called "The Player" is a minor henchman in the gang of a mad criminal called "The Jester" operating in said decade. After a bank robbery disastrously gone wrong and a subsequent run-in with Bill & Ted, the Player is transported forward in time, into our present (called the year "20XX"). Uprooted, he enlists the help of a certain "Doc Choc" who has built a time machine into a suspiciously DeLorean-looking sports car. Before the Player can travel back to his own time, he has to find various replacement parts so that the Doc, who is charmingly naive and ignorant about the Player's criminal activities, can fix the phone booth, though. In the process, the good-evil Player uncovers several big conspiracies and fights even badder guys than himself while, of course, permanently having the evil-good law enforcement agencies on his back.

The general gameplay is clearly inspired by the Grand Theft Auto games: Freely roaming around "Theftropolis City", the Player can collect weapons and hidden power-ups, steal cars, fulfil missions or simply run over innocent bystanders for fun. Whenever he commits a crime with a policeman present nearby, the "threat meter" will rise, indicating that the police will chase him more aggressively until finally, even it is replaced by military if the Player takes it too far. Hiding for a time decreases the threat meter, as will having your car sprayed in a different, inconspicuous colour (the Player remarks: "That will totally work!").

retro_city_rampage_103.png
Maybe this is the reason?
Hidden in there are various references to other classic computer and video games, though. One mission involves the Player jumping on a bike (not the motor-driven kind) and delivering newspapers. Infiltrating the local superhero's mansion, he suddenly has to "solve" simple "puzzles" and finds a hamster in a microwave. At several points of the story, he suddenly finds himself in Jump'n'Run inspired sections, sometimes even under water (James Pond?), the end game is a prolonged chase sequence reminiscient of Chase HQ and the fighting styles available to the Player range from the obvious weapons to Golden Axe or Double Dragon inspired pickup moves and jumping on people's heads.

The latter being a good example of the overall tone of the game: While the nods towards gaming history are of a loving nature, there are various pointed stabs at the world surrounding the gaming culture. The Player himself delivers several deadpan remarks which allude to well-known subjects, such as in this case the media discussion about violence in video games: When the Player finds an arcade machine whose game lets his avatar stomp on monsters' heads, he "suddenly feels the urge to stomp people in real life", which he then promptly proceeds to do. In a similarly ironic vein, the game begins with a "common sense warning" parodying those false disclaimers with their typical double standards.

retro_city_rampage_072.png
The police on the trail of the Ghostbusters' car
Which obviously makes this a game for people old enough to remember those times about twenty to thirty years ago. The humour of it all is anything but accessible – you either "get it" or you don't. Both on these slightly serious subjects (this also includes more than one major stab at Microsoft's business practices), but also when it comes to seemingly irrelevant details like the large choice of mullets which the Player can have his hair cut into. It all contributes to the warm, fuzzy feeling of returning back to one's innocent youth.

Emphasising this even more is the audiovisual style. The game is accompanied by a broad variety of chiptunes and the graphics… the graphics! Running at an effective resolution of 320x240 pixels, the game looks like it comes right out of the late 1980s. The quality of the pixel art makes it obvious that this is not inability, but a conscious choice of style. On top of that, the game offers various graphical filters which can, on the one hand, smoothen or sharpen the picture and apply various colour palettes modelled after classic computers or console systems. So if you like the green-brown-ish tint of the classic Game Boy, you can have it just like the colour bleeding effects of the Spectrum. My personal favourite: the C64 palette.

retro_city_rampage_028.png
The Player is really a good-bad guy
Of course, there is the question why. Is it the nostalgia of those colours reminding me of a carefree, fun time as I experienced it personally? It is undeniable that it is a curious "coincidence" that my preference correlates with my personal computer-related history. Still, I like to think it's not just that. The C64 palette contains muted colours; the default as well as the NES-inspired one, on the other hand, are quite shrill and I certainly cannot imagine anyone seriously picking a CGA palette if they can avoid it! Though whether that is a factor or just rationalisation after the fact, who can tell?

Which, of course, is a valid point to make about the whole game. In spite of most of the short "parody levels" not being quite on par with the main gameplay and some even gnawing dangerously at the frustration level of games as they were actually made back in the 1980s (though you do have unlimited lives…) as well as the progressing plotline narrowing down the freedom inherent in the gameplay more and more over time, RCR is an absolute delight to play! It's literally been years that I've been entertained this well by a game I didn't know before! Even more than the (admittely funny) storyline, the totally free play, simply exploring all the corners of the city and discovering its many hidden secrets, is very close to my heart. Whether this will be the same for younger players or whether they will see it as just another mediocre and eventually forgettable curiousity, I don't dare to judge.

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Comments (10) [hide] [Post comment]

Mr Creosote (2013-04-16):

Originally posted by Herr M. at 22:07 on April 13th, 2013:
Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
The sweat bomber I found very annoying, I actually skipped it. Timed tapping of a button? No, thanks!
Almost gave up on this one too. Actually it was the first part of the game were I considered giving up, until I realized you could skip it. Still I finished it, out of stubbornness. Did you finsh any of the Nolan's Arcade games? I just managed to do the eating contest game, and that nearly broke my controller.
Yes, I finished all of those, though non with perfect score. Of course, these are all one-off jokes; I doubt I'll ever play them again.

Quote:
Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
The Death Cam, on the other hand, I found quite playable. I certainly died there a couple of times as well, but not excessively.
Just out of curiosity, how did you beat the two sword fighters in the second room? I found that nigh to impossible until I noticed, that the gun guy in the first room respawns.
Phew... you're going into more detail than I really remember. I think most of those fights which involved close combat oriented enemies were basically timing affairs: 'hit and run' or 'hit repeatedly before the enemies can get back into defensive position' or (in cases of fighting many enemies at once) 'avoid being surrounded at all costs' .

I wonder if it will be possible to download additional city maps in the future. As I said, although the standard one has got many great secrets and very different corners, it is hardly a large one. I think the game would benefit greatly from additional variety in this respect.

Herr M. (2013-04-13):

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
OK, the final level is definitely a tough one… but it is the final level/boss, so I found it appropriate.
Don't get me wrong: I totally agree on that it is appropriate, but I still hated it. :P On the other hand it was quite satisfing to see the ending (though it uses a very cheap trick) and get a nice bonus.

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
The sweat bomber I found very annoying, I actually skipped it. Timed tapping of a button? No, thanks!
Almost gave up on this one too. Actually it was the first part of the game were I considered giving up, until I realized you could skip it. Still I finished it, out of stubbornness. Did you finsh any of the Nolan's Arcade games? I just managed to do the eating contest game, and that nearly broke my controller.

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
The Death Cam, on the other hand, I found quite playable. I certainly died there a couple of times as well, but not excessively.
Just out of curiosity, how did you beat the two sword fighters in the second room? I found that nigh to impossible until I noticed, that the gun guy in the first room respawns.

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
Simply doing silly things and enjoying the rich details of this small city is something I can get back to again and again.
So what's the most silly thing you have done? For me it has to be buying a skate board to get away from the police, driving to the paint shop, change the colour to orange... and install the cannon. :D
As for the nice details: I smiled at the crashed escape pod from Space Quest 3 at the junkyard.

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 08:31 on April 13th, 2013:
Often, I just grab the monster truck and run over random other cars driving around peacefully ;)
An instant classic. ;) The funny thing is, that the monster truck is almost camouflaged with the brown colour on the bro
Or the Giant Ape, or the time machine with it's fire trail. Though my favorite car still has to be the taxi, since it has it's own mini game.

[edit: fixed last quote -Mr Creosote]

Mr Creosote (2013-04-13):

Glad you enjoy the game as well :)

Originally posted by Herr M. at 23:19 on April 12th, 2013:
I absolutely HATED the final level! Probably because it took me almost 2 hours of frustrated level memorizing and repeatedly getting nuked by a single shot (though having three lives) to realize that you can shoot the onstacles in the final round. Though the tracks before weren't all that easy eiter. Not to mention the Death-Cam Level which is nigh to impossible if you don't use a very cheap trick.

Lives: -265 (around -100 for the sweat bomber level alone)

OK, the final level is definitely a tough one… but it is the final level/boss, so I found it appropriate. The sweat bomber I found very annoying, I actually skipped it. Timed tapping of a button? No, thanks! The Death Cam, on the other hand, I found quite playable. I certainly died there a couple of times as well, but not excessively.

Quote:
Very much love for details and a plethora of somewhat useless but entertaining stuff. I think what I liked most was driving along the sidewalk, collecting money and raising the police alert level until the tanks showed up. :evil: And then losing all that money at donkey races again.
That is the main draw for me as well. Those specific plot-related levels are nice and sometimes really well done, but the basic concept in the free roaming mode is much more fun on the long run! Simply doing silly things and enjoying the rich details of this small city is something I can get back to again and again. Often, I just grab the monster truck and run over random other cars driving around peacefully ;)

Herr M. (2013-04-12):

After playing it now and then for some weeks, I just finished the game and there is one thing I have to get of my mind right now: I absolutely HATED the final level! Probably because it took me almost 2 hours of frustrated level memorizing and repeatedly getting nuked by a single shot (though having three lives) to realize that you can shoot the onstacles in the final round. Though the tracks before weren't all that easy eiter. Not to mention the Death-Cam Level which is nigh to impossible if you don't use a very cheap trick. Actually it's quite fitting: Having an almost impossible last level is as retro as you can get.

But don't get me wrong: I think it's really a fantastic game, with some very nice features, that capture the spirit of those games from the old days exceptionally well (for the good and for the bad). Very much love for details and a plethora of somewhat useless but entertaining stuff. I think what I liked most was driving along the sidewalk, collecting money and raising the police alert level until the tanks showed up. :evil: And then losing all that money at donkey races again. Also the Iced tea had me laughing really hard. :D

And I did a lot of colour palette switching, which was as great a feature as I thought it to be. The graphics never got boring. :)

My final Score: 2082589 Lives: -265 (around -100 for the sweat bomber level alone)

Herr M. (2013-01-07):

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 20:04 on January 5th, 2013:
Because from an artistic standpoint, I don't see computer graphics as a linear progression upwards.

Well this might slightly drift off-topic, but for me the artistic value is not tied to the technical details of monitor or graphics card (if any). I can think of both very old games (I really dig the graphical style of the old Sierra games) and newer games (like Machinarium, one almost recent game that was extremly artistical appealing to me) that show great creativity and care for details. There are even some Game Boy games that aren't limited by the green/brown palette, like Gargolye's Quest.

Quote:
Here is a screenshot including one of the picture frames. There are more filters like scanlines, a dot matrix, making everything blurry etc. for your eye cancer pleasure which I didn't deem worth mentioning before ;)
Looks neat, but as I said before: It's only half the fun if it isn't actually handheld. ;) But the CGA might just suffice. :)

Mr Creosote (2013-01-05):

Here is a screenshot including one of the picture frames. There are more filters like scanlines, a dot matrix, making everything blurry etc. for your eye cancer pleasure which I didn't deem worth mentioning before ;)

Mr Creosote (2013-01-05):

Originally posted by Herr M. at 19:28 on January 5th, 2013:
I have played a lot of emulator games, that had worse graphics and didn't mind the limited palette.
Not minding it – OK. Although I only got my first IBM in the 1990s when CGA was already an anachronism, I have played a fair share of such games. I can still enjoy a game if it looks like this if it's otherwise fun. That's not the same as preferring it, though.

Originally posted by Herr M. at 19:28 on January 5th, 2013:
Why not go full nostalgia? Why stop at 16 colour graphics?
Because from an artistic standpoint, I don't see computer graphics as a linear progression upwards. There might still be an old thread here in this forum where I posted even a diagram showing my appreciation of graphics over the scale of years: While graphical standard did improve up until 1990 or so, its artistic quality (as opposed to technical quality which undoubtedly rose right through the roof) actually decreased from there on. It stopped being art (smart placement of pixels to achieve an effect) and started being pure maths (all this render shit made by machines). So for me it's not 'stopping' at some point, but trying to get close to what I consider the actual historical artistic high point. Which, as I said in the review, might just be an excuse for pure nostalgia, too, of course (since I have no nostalgic connotation with CGA).

Quote:
Somehow this option to change the graphics mode might totally sell this game to me (as superficial as this might sound).
Then you might be happy to hear that you can also put the actual game graphics into various static 'frames', for example, one modelled after the look of the original Game Boy, several TV sets etc. ;)

Herr M. (2013-01-05):

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 18:21 on January 5th, 2013:
Are you serious?
Well at least partially. Since a lot of the very first games I played used either CGA or EGA I kind of like this mint-pink mishmash. Especially countless hours of Sokoban and Kings Quest (back than I only had a CGA-version) come to my mind. So while artisitcally speaking CGA might not compare to the lastet "photo-realistic" graphics, for me it has an unbelievable nostalgic charm. Which leads us to:

Quote:
How important is nostalgia for such games? Hence my serious question: Would you actually play a game if CGA if you had other choices as well? I mean not just set it to CGA temporarily for novelty, but use it as the main setting.

I probably would play it in either CGA or Gameboy mode (allthough it would be kind of pointless without playing it on a handheld) , at least I would give it a try. I have played a lot of emulator games, that had worse graphics and didn't mind the limited palette. Why not go full nostalgia? Why stop at 16 colour graphics? Somehow this option to change the graphics mode might totally sell this game to me (as superficial as this might sound).

If I felt totally nostalgic I would even prefer some PC-speaker sounds. :)

Mr Creosote (2013-01-05):

Quote:
Judging from the screenshots it certainly looks a lot better than the other ones, closely followed by the Game Boy graphics
Are you serious? And the Game Boy one – it's completely washed out! The monochrome mode is ok with me, on the other hand. It doesn't make my eyes bleed (garish CGA) and it still has enough contrast to be clear.

Quote:
As a PC gamer you couldn't go any more retro
Exactly that is the question: How important is nostalgia for such games? Hence my serious question: Would you actually play a game in CGA if you had other choices as well? I mean not just set it to CGA temporarily for novelty, but use it as the main setting.

Herr M. (2013-01-05):

Hey, don't be so hard on the CGA color mode! Judging from the screenshots it certainly looks a lot better than the other ones, closely followed by the Game Boy graphics. As a PC gamer you couldn't go any more retro... except perhaps with amber monochrome. ;)

Does sound like a great game, which spends a lot of attention to the details that made those old games so memorable.

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