The Nintendo Switch is affectionately referred to as the “indie machine”. Vblank Entertainment’s Retro City Rampage DX is a example of an excellent indie game on the Switch. While the core game has been updated (hence “DX” in the title) and ported to many platforms already, it is still a standout title on the Switch. It doesn’t do anything new or different than its other console counterparts, but its portability and home console duality lend the game to be played literally everywhere – and this is a game you want to play everywhere you can. Retro City Rampage DX is an homage to 80s games, movies, and music that doesn’t rely purely on its parody to be funny and interesting, it also has solid gameplay and mechanics to back it all up.
It’s been five years since I reviewed Retro City Rampage, and a lot’s changed. There’s a new dynamic driving camera, new control options, missions have been streamlined as well as getting more checkpoints, and perhaps most importantly: there’s a bottom map screen. There’s probably a lot more that I’m missing, but Retro City Rampage DX looks and feels great still.
Retro City Rampage DX is not without a plethora of visual options. You can cycle through different TV and tube settings that don’t really play well on the Switch, as they often eat up more screen real estate when playing in handheld mode. When hooked up to your widescreen TV though, that works real well. There are a bunch of color options that cycle through vibrant to gritty (like 2006’s Gears of War kind of grit) The game even goes through the lengths in emulating the color spectrum of Game Boy, Virtual Boy, ZX Spectrum, and other odd and rare PC systems. There’s so many color options to keep you busy as you work your way through the game.
Retro City Rampage DX is a lot of things, but its core gameplay reasoning is “what if the first Grand Theft Auto was on the Nintendo Entertainment System?” Because from the top-down view to the chaos that can soon follow, feels like the PC/PS1 release of Grand Theft Auto, but done in a 8-bit look. The game is chock full of 80s references and parody. In the opening set of missions alone, the game recalls Contra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros., Pole Position, the list goes on and on.
The story can be something you pay attention to and follow, but the ever-present ‘fast forward’ button during cutscenes suggests otherwise. In this, Retro City Rampage DX gets out of its own way so you can enjoy the 60+ stages the game has to offer. You’re held by the hand for the first few missions as the intro also throws a lot of mechanics and systems at you, and expects you to remember them (you won’t). Once you have full control and free-roam, you’ll notice that your life counter starts at 0, saying that it doesn’t matter how bad or good you do, this is a game in which you have fun. Control-wise, the alternate control scheme for driving is preferred. By default, the left stick turns and accelerates. The alternative method is more traditional (by modern standards) and lets you press a button for gas and just turn with the left stick, this feels more natural and controlled.
In a short amount of time you’ll unlock arcade challenges which are essentially Grand Theft Auto‘s “rampages” whereby you’re given a powerful weapon, and a time limit to cause as much destruction as possible. Thankfully, this is all done from a menu than trying to find it in the game world (which you can do too). The scoring systems is funny, starting with a participation medal and real medals starting with bronze, to silver, and finish with gold. Should you want to play it again, the game allows you to do so easily and repeatedly.
By design, Retro City Rampage DX is an open world, but there is a free roam mode that just lets you explore Theftopolis City free and clear of story elements popping up. This mode also lets you play as different characters like Minecraft’s Steve or Super Meat Boy. Choosing Steve from Minecraft makes the entire city full of blockheads, which is a really cool aesthetic. All extra characters can be easily unlocked from the arcade or select story missions.
Retro City Rampage DX finds another home, perhaps its best, finest, and last on the Nintendo Switch. The game is so clearly a labor of love and it shows, even if it’s a bit manic at times. The humor always lands, and the gameplay feels great. The seemingly endless video options lets you give the game a new look each time you play. Retro City Rampage DX‘s release is rather timely, making a great primer for Vblank Entertainment’s next game, Shakedown: Hawaii which changes locations and enters the 16-bit era. Switch owners are in for a real treat, as Retro City Rampage DX is nostalgia redefined.
A pre-release Nintendo Switch eShop code was provided by the publisher for review purposes