Publisher: D3 Publisher / Developer: VBlank Entertainment Inc. / Platform: PC, PS3, PS Vita

Ever since I was little and I used to secretly play the Grand Theft Auto demo hidden on a PC Gamer demo disc when my parents weren’t looking, I always adored open-world games. Sure, you could do missions or go on a killing spree, but you could also just walk (or drive) around and explore. Sightsee. Do nothing, in a video game! For some reason the freedom to destroy anyone and anything around you (obviously, the same things my parents wanted me to stay away from the game for) was vastly outshined by the ability to just drive around for the sake of driving around. Because of this, I immediately became excited for Retro CityRampage the second I heard about it a few years ago.

Retro City Rampage is, on the surface, a silly homage to both classic and modern video games. However, after playing barely an hour through the game you’ll begin to see that is more a tribute to geek culture throughout history. References to everything from Back to the Future to Minecraft can be found – some more blatant than others – but each of them feel less like one-off references and more as if you are playing in a world where geek culture is more than a fragment of the overall pop culture, it is popular culture. Streets are called “zones”, radio stations all play chiptunes that sound very similar to classic video game themes, and bushes all have little Mario World-esque eyes. Every inch of Retro City Rampage‘s world reads like an Encyclopedia Britannica of geek culture, and I found myself spending more time just walking around than progressing in any particular missions.

RCR plays a lot like the classic top-down GTA games. No, it plays almost exactly like the classic top-down GTA games. You can steal cars, kill people, run from cops, and be a general nuisance around town in between doing missions for various people, all in glorious 8-bit pixel art. You can even change how the pixels looking, making the game emulate everything from the NES, to Game Boy, and even multiple editions of DOS. You can even set a border around the screen to resemble an old TV, computer, arcade cabinet, or just fill the screen entirely if it proves to be too distracting.

There are some problems I noticed while playing through the game, some more obvious than others. There is a lock-on system that allows you to easily move around while shooting the same person; however, getting the game to recognize who you want to shoot at is slightly more difficult than I would have liked. Shooting someone completely different, then awkwardly trying to point your character at the right enemy and locking on again (you will automatically lock on to someone whenever you hold down the attack button) happens more often than it should. The pacing of the game – especially during the intro stage – goes by incredibly quickly, and it is very easy to lose track of what exactly is going on, let alone catch all of the refrences that whiz by like machinegun fire.

Retro City Rampage isn’t perfect, but it isn’t anywhere near a bad game. The amount of detail put into the world as well as the amount of references is something worth checking out, especially for gamers that enjoy exploration. The gameplay and graphics are fun and the sheer amount of weapons, vehicles and things to do ensure that you won’t be getting bored of the game for a long time. Retro City Rampage is a great game, and anyone that has ever played a video game from the ’80s or ’90s should absolutely pick this up.