Pandora's Tower Review
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but swords and chains excite me. Should you climb the towers in Xseed's JRPG/adventure hybrid to save your cursed (and tragically whiny) girlfriend?
[ Editor's Note: As Nick Olsen is a writer for Theory of Gaming, this won't be counted in the monthly Vox Pop prize. However, it is very much a worthy read. ]
By Nick Olsen
Co-founder, Theory of Gaming
In 1985 Nintendo started a revolution when it...
My character radioed the Solid Snake stand-in who originally ordered me to my current objective. Snake replied, "I was feel slept. Leave massage." This early mission was slipping through my fingertips. After I was spotted by my 8-bit enemies, I quickly abandoned my goal and decided to evade the police on foot.
In my haste, I crashed into more pedestrians and attracted the attention of the diminutive National Guard patrolling Retro City Rampage's setting of Theftropolis. As I received a Game Over screen that read "Congratulations! You Died!" and displayed a negative number next to my player icon, a smile slowly crept across my face. vBlank Entertainment's downloadable GTA remake certainly hits the right comedic beats. But does it play well?
I went back to the NES Metal Gear stage a little later and managed to sneak past the armed guards. After stealing the chopper, Retro City Rampage threw me into a Contra remake and gave me Sonic's shoes as a power-up. After escaping, I continued to run away from cops on foot in the hopes I could take in the city lights. That's when four green mutant turtles spilled out of an 8-bit manhole cover and started hitting me with their ninja weapons.
I opened fire with my uzi and finished off the last turtle with a guitar I stole from a mariachi a little while earlier. With the mutant menace handily beaten, I moved to the next mission marker. Here, my future self materialized in a Delorean. In order to help him make his way back to 15 minutes in the future, I had to run over 88 pedestrians to build the Flax Combobulator's power back up to operating capacity.
All of this was in just the first hour of Retro City Rampage. When you consider that even the screen overlays available to the player in the options throw back to classic consoles, '80s television sets, and the Mono-Sound Game Boy, it's safe to say that vBlank's indie game is more than competent in its knowledge of old-school gaming culture.
In fact, there was a point where I felt as though I should have picked up a box of Nintendo Cereal System and turned on the TV for Saturday morning cartoons. Of course, at the apex of my nostalgia high, the A-Team van crashed into my motor bike, knocking me free and allowing RCR's Mr. T stand-in to ready his baseball bat for my 8-bit knees.
When all is said and done, it'll be hard for anyone over the age of 20 to miss the fodder for RCR's parody. It's littered everywhere in the world, to the point that you can actually play and beat the dam level from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on NES. That's right… that dam(n) level.
These parodies are actually where Retro City Rampage shines. Reimagining the way classic scenarios could play out in a GTA-style remake actually proves quite entertaining. Tight, simple, responsive controls bring the experience together. While cops prove themselves quite over-zealous (it's nearly impossible to lose them without the aid of a power-up), accepting a mission or challenge prompt clears out your wanted level and resets you in the open-world playground.
Rampage challenges (remember those, Grand Theft Auto fans?) are spread evenly around the world and manage to maintain a high-level of difficulty to offset the forgiving AI. Scoring a gold medal on every challenge will require dedication and careful planning. Replaying story mode missions or just exploring the world is entertaining in and of itself, but collectibles are the real reward. Mini-games like a Virtual Boy-port of Super Meat Boy round out the package and push the value in vBlank's $15 package.
Then you stumble on a theater billboard with "Ernest Gets Rabies" on it. It's hard to recommend Retro City Rampage if you're not going to "get" a reference to Grogbrushes. More obvious in-jokes include a Princess Peach-style note about peddling smut that eventually leads into a Paperboy-esque delivery mission.
Cheat codes, character skins, and mini-games make Retro City Rampage a compelling package, most notably on the PlayStation Vita, where neatly digestible gameplay loops allow for quick bites of arcade-y fun. Of course, buying on either PlayStation platform will net you both versions as part of Sony's cross-buy promotion.
All of this is supported by my favorite game soundtrack in years, cementing Retro City Rampage as like, totally radical, dude.
Copy not provided by publisher. Reviews based on Vita version.
Retro City Rampage
Lean, time-traveling soundtrack
Tons of vehicles and weapons
Story missions, Rampage challenges, mini-games
Cheats, skins, screen overlays
Tight controls, arcade fun
If you don't get the references...
$15 for both Vita and PS3 versions
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