Brian Provinciano’s follow-up to Retro City Rampage is finally here. Shakedown: Hawaii bumps up the bits from 8 to 16. This time around Vblank drops the references, the homages, and has made a game that stands on its own, more so than its spiritual predecessor. Shakedown: Hawaii still offers a Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox experience that can be as chaotic as you make it, but this time it’s all about making the most money imaginable. And it won’t be long before you’re your own Scrooge McDuck, albeit a lunatic who’s grip on reality is only held on by the almighty dollar, and willing to kill for it.
Editor’s Note: This review was based on version 1.0.5 of the game
Shakedown: Hawaii is about a once-glorious CEO that finds himself aging, and quickly out-of-touch with today’s trends and spends an embarrassing amount of time trying to catch up, but only ever that. This CEO has some thoughts against corporations, credit cards, like a proper curmudgeon would. It’s 2019 meets 1989 in such an entertaining and anachronistic way. There’s jokes about streaming video and ink subscriptions that got some proper laughs. You’ll play mainly as the CEO and his son, with a third character you play seldom. There’s a bit of Grand Theft Auto V‘s three protagonist system here, but no freedom of choice as to when you get to play as them. Each character has normal and crime outfits they wear, so that they mask the bad deeds they do. The father works hard to maintain the business anyway he can, while the son almost up-ends everything by frequently getting in trouble with the law. I wish there were more interactions with these characters. They are so few and far between, but when they do interact, it hardly adds up to much.
Continuing a game that plays like the original Grand Theft Auto and its sequel is here. The gameplay is very similar in that regard. Shooting is done via the right-stick and its lock-on with the correct baddie is inconsistent, but for the most part hits who you want. On-foot feels great, especially with the ability to Mario-stomp your opponents into submission. Driving feels the best out of the bunch, and is extremely satisfying just to crash into everything. You can even store your favorite vehicles in your garage.
The titular shakedowns you do in the game are a means to earn more money. They are designed in that you will either rough up the inside of a store, or hold off bad guys trying to defend the place to make the owner willing to sell to you. This is only one source of many incomes. You’ll have the opportunity to buy up land and rezone it which create shortage in nearby areas, driving up costs. From there, you can purchase multipliers on properties you own to increase their worth and attractiveness to customers like having worthless gift cards and credit card offerings to the poor saps who buy them.
You have separate means of income via your properties which are split up between your asset worth and wallet availability. You can funnel profits into your spendable cash which can be used to change your appearance, buy weapons, and things like that. You don’t ever need much, and once you get all that you want, you can decrease the cash that funnels into your wallet. The way in which you buy properties, purchase multipliers, and constantly have an influx of cash reminds me of clickers. This is not a bad thing, I’m almost confident this is what the developer was going for. And having actual gameplay to back that all up is just icing on the clicker cake.
Shakedown: Hawaii has lots and lots of cutscenes. I’m not too bothered by them, as they’re really well done, but many of them feel superfluous and could cut to the chase rather than what they do. Most times, the dialogue in these cutscenes can be generally funny. I just found more often than not that they didn’t offer anything substantial. And in all actuality, the cutscenes take longer to play out than some of the actual missions. It’s nice that the missions aren’t too involved, but they could demand just a bit more and I’d be okay with that.
The game features a new auto-save system that wasn’t present previously. You still have the option to save anytime you like, but now you’re less likely to lose any progress no matter when you exit the game. My other new favorite feature of the game is the map icon customization. Even at release, you couldn’t choose what you saw on the map. Now you can make it purely a real estate map, or an everything map to see where certain shops, or things are located. It being customizable goes a long way to reduce map clutter.
Retro City Rampage DX was a game that had an incredible amount of visual options. That’s been dialed back a bit here, at least it feels. There’s a screen TV option to select or leave disabled, only allowing for widescreen. And you also can select TV color options, range from next-gen to NES, or a washed out “Portland” look. I feel specific color schemes are missing, but you’ll still find your GameBoy-esque monochrome types here. By default there’s a 2x zoom, with a 3x zoom as another option. Thankfully, and since I’m playing on PC, both of those felt too tight. So a new 1x zoom option has been added as of the latest patch, and feels perfect for being so close to a semi-large screen.
The area of Hawaii available in this game is huge, easily two to three times as big as the last game. This is an open-ended game with a set number of things to do in its open-world, but here is more of a place than a sandbox. The in-game map lets you look at every place to go, set waypoints, and so on. It also gives you the ability to buy up all your properties from this screen, without having to drive anywhere or access some terminal. This is by far the best feature of the game, the sheer convenience of it all.
The game features radio stations, but are only numbered presets, which feels like a miss. I wish they had proper names that were personality driven. They are all very 80s inspired, and don’t need to be defined as genres. Shakedown: Hawaii is definitely better to look at, with the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit in terms of style and presentation working wonders. That’s not to say Retro City Rampage doesn’t look great on its own, but its decidedly limited color palette pales in comparison. Shakedown: Hawaii even has a day-night cycle that’s a bit subtle, but conveys time of day with bold colors that looks great.
The game features two other game modes, like its predecessor: Free Roam and Arcade. Free Roam lets you do what you want, how you want, without the story getting in the way. Free roam is also a great place to search for collectibles, which aren’t that many for how big the world is. This includes the property management aspects. Arcade mode is about chaos and destruction, letting you select a specific challenge to reach a high score and achieve medals. These rampage events stashed around the world is great for those who played the older GTA‘s with the idea of wreaking havoc at every turn will be right at home here.
Shakedown: Hawaii is better than Retro City Rampage in just about every way, but they find a way to compliment each other. The game’s biggest strength is not relying on references, even though I miss them. The story is very guided by being very hand-holdy. I wish you were given more creative latitude, but that’s where the free roam and arcade modes come into play. With a styling akin to a Super Nintendo or Genesis console, Shakedown: Hawaii looks and plays amazing. It’s being ported to literally everything, and no matter where you play it: you absolutely should.
An Epic Games Store code was provided by the publisher for review purposes