The first test of any videogame is whether it’s fun. Not if the graphics are good, not if it has an “incredible storyline” that makes idiots try and compare videogames with cinema (whoever said “I had a great time last night playing Lawrence of Arabia and beat my train-destroying record?” Exactly), not even if it’s original. No, what makes a great videogame, primarily, is the player having lots of fun.
And for that reason, based on my first two hours of play, I’m declaring Retro City Rampage a great game.
What makes it even better is that it has everything the snotty games-are-art crowd turn their noses up at: the graphics are knowingly 8-bit and cheesy as is the music, the plot is preposterous nonsense more in love with referencing ’80s and ’90s culture than anything “serious” and the hero is a deliberately empty vessel called “Player”; he doesn’t even have features in-game.
And yet this game scores where it matters: it’s superb fun. I spent yesterday playing in-game stages that referenced – in gameplay and looks – everything from Frogger to the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Commando, chuckling at the sort of daft shop names and in-jokes that used to make the GTA series such fun (and hopefully still will in the future) and engaging in some of the most entertaining videogame police chases I’ve had since I first picked up GTA Chinatown Wars, more than three years ago. I’m sure there’s more disappointing stuff in it later on, there usually is with these things, but right now it’s been good stuff all the way: engaging, good, silly, fun.
If you’ve ever used phrases like “games are a mature medium comparable with cinema now” or “the best thing about Zombiefest IV is the conflicted central character” then Retro City Rampage probably isn’t for you. If however you still think jumping over mutant telephones in Manic Miner is fun and don’t think Pac-Man has anything to do with Citizen Kane then you should probably give this a try. The only downer for me, so far, is the price which I think is a little steep at $14.99 (£9.29 in real money). It’s currently going at a reduced price on GOG.com though and you might be able to get it cheaper elsewhere.