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REVIEW | Take A Nostalgic Trip Down To “Retro City”

Posted on November 5, 2012 AT 03:12pm

The road to Retro City Rampage‘s release has been a long and strenuous one. Originally supposed to be a de-make of the Grand Theft Auto series called “Grand Theftendo” Brian Provinciano’s brainchild started taking another form after he wanted to make it more original, not just a parody of Rockstar’s beloved series. Instead he took elements from games, cartoons, and movies he loved as a child and inserted them into the main storyline. What was just a mere send-up of a modern-day classic was now a super-parody, filled with jokes found in every crevice of the game. Retro City Rampage is also one of the best love letters to gamers since Polytron’s Fez.

In Retro City Rampage players take control of Player, a guy who’s the opposite of a goodie little two-shoes that helps the evil Jester pull off a massive bank heist. After the Jester accidentally blows up the bus with the loot, Player finds himself being chased by every hero and police officer in town. Soon he steals a time machine, kills Michael J. Fox, and meets Doc, who is tricked by Player into fixing the time machine for his own personal gain.

In order to fix the machine Player must find the proper tools and parts to put it all back together again. This leads to various missions that involve running down people, beating up the cast of Saved By The Bell, and even delivering magazines Paperboy-styled throughout a neighborhood. In-between you can walk or driver around town, kill people for coins, change your hair & attire, and seek out challenge missions that range from blowing up cars with a rocket launcher to mowing down pedestrians in a tank.

Throughout Retro City Rampage you’ll run into a reference or homage to just about everything in the pop culture realm. Player can stomp on the heads of people like Mario, battle it out against super ninjas a la Smash TV, and even take control of a man named Sweat Bomber who can maneuver around a level like Twisted Pixel’s ‘Splosion Man. On occasion you’ll find yourself becoming a Ghostbuster, face off against the Ninja Turtles, and assist an eyepatch-wearing solider in some solid army tactics. Hell, the Oregon Trail wagon even appears as a usable vehicle in the city!

Like in Grand Theft Auto there is a police meter that will alert the fuzz whenever you do something bad in their vicinity. These cops will come in droves by foot, scooter, and vehicle, and it is best to get out of their way when their numbers rise. Here they are more of a pain to deal with instead of a fun little challenge, as they can affect your gameplay momentum in a great way. Fortunately you can find some special coins that send the cops on their merry way, sending your meter back down to safe levels.

Retro City Rampage does a fantastic job with recreating the 8-bit style of classic gaming lore. Every pixel and character has the look of an NES title. If that’s not enough you can set the graphics up in nearly twenty different ways ranging from CGA to Commodore 64. The worlds and streets may be more akin to GTA, but I can’t help but think of the 1990 Dick Tracy game when I see how the vehicles move. The music by Leonard J. Paul, Jake Kaufman (who also did Double Dragon Neon this year), and Matthew Creamer manages to capture the limited but catchy soundtracks of such games as Hogan’s Alley, Mega Man, and Battletoads (the latter of which deserves a remake of its own).

As the game looks and sounds like an NES game, you can also expect it to play like one; meaning that some of the missions here are wicked hard. The Smash TV-inspired level alone may take you hours alone to figure out, as some of the ninjas have better protection and weaponry than others. Timed missions can be a major pain, as it often feels like you’re not given enough time to do everything the mission asks of you (especially the Grim Reaper mission, which does begin hilariously). You will die a lot, so expect a great deal of frustration. Thankfully the game rewards back with its stellar humor and killer gameplay.

With over 50 story missions and 30 challenge modes you can expect many hours of gameplay; surprising, considering its under 50MB. You can waste some time in the arcade with games starring Super Meat Boy, Commander Video, and the always glorious Epic Meal Time people. If you are in the mood to just run around and blow stuff up, you can do just that in Free Roaming Mode. For a little more fun, be sure to look out for some cheat codes that can help you along the way, although you cannot save the game once you put them in.


  • Hilarious parodies of classic and modern games
  • Old-school 8-bit look a near-perfect recreation of NES titles
  • Tons of cool missions and challenge modes


  • Some missions insanely difficult
  • Have to shut the game down in order to turn off cheats
  • Cops are more of a nuisance than a threat


It’s taken VBlank Entertainment almost a decade to release Retro City Rampage, and their hard work has paid off greatly. It may have its Grand Theft Auto roots, but it’s got the beating heart of NES gaming and the brains & funny bones of the Zucker Brothers. Those looking for some over-the-top zaniness with some pixelated cartoon violence have no need to search any further.

FINAL GRADE: 8.8 (out of ten)

PSN review copy provided by Brian Provinciano

An accomplished music, anime, and video game critic, Evan Bourgault has been a Contributing Editor and Podcast host with ElectricSistaHood since 2008. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Follow Evan on Twitter at

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