Shakedown: Hawaii is like getting first class tickets to paradise

It’s rare to get a jolt of energy simply from loading up a video game. Usually, you need to get to the action before you feel your blood pumping, but Shakedown: Hawaii is special. From the moment you load it up, you’ll hear its pitch-perfect synth soundtrack. You’ll see the 16-bit presentation with just the right menu sounds. It just immediately gets you in the mood to tear it up and cause chaos around the island. Once you hit start, things only get better.

The long in the making follow-up to Retro City RampageShakedown: Hawaii is another top-down open-world crime game in the vein of the original Grand Theft Auto titles. There’s a linear story that has you stepping into the role of a jaded businessman trying to make it in the modern world. However, if you don’t care about that, you can just pull out a flamethrower and go hog wild. You can even compete in arcade challenges, discover hidden secrets around the city, and climb into a multitude of vehicles without their owner’s permission.

Shakedown: Hawaii Preview | Hot Resort

Right off the bat, it looks like Shakedown learned a lot from its predecessor. Whereas that game drew from random pop culture references for inspiration, Shakedown is more like a slick satire of modern living. It’s clear that developer Vblank Entertainment still has a love for the ’80s, but that doesn’t overtake the whole product. In what’s becoming less and less of a rarity these days, there are universally funny moments throughout the story bits. If you’re down for the most cynical jabs at late stage capitalism, Shakedown: Hawaii is right there with you.

One of the most impressive parts of Retro City Rampage was how adaptable it was. That game saw ports to everything from the PlayStation Vita to cell phones to MS-DOS. Not only that, but the PC version could handle pretty much any controller under the sun and continues to get updates to this day. With a 3DS and Vita port for Shakedown: Hawaii already in the works, I have little doubt that this game will get the same treatment.

Shakedown: Hawaii Preview | Soldier of the Night

Shakedown Hawaii

No matter whether you’re using a controller or keyboard and mouse, the PC version of Shakedown: Hawaii feels great to play. The top-down action is intuitive and breezy, letting you tear through pedestrians and cops at your leisure. Even in my brief few hours with the beta, I amassed an impressive arsenal of rifles, melee weapons, handguns, and even a flamethrower. There are few restrictions on what you can use where and everything looks to be tuned for maximum chaotic fun.

Each bite-sized mission blends with the next, making for a great modern flow as you play. Outside of specific story quests, you can “shake down” local businesses to get protection money. Each shop owner will put up different defenses, so you might have to vanquish a rival crew of gangsters or rough up the merchandise.

There’s also a seemingly rather complicated layer of finances to the whole experience. Purchasing real estate can raise the prices in the surrounding area, including buildings you own. If you want to dive in, there’s a whole layer of strategy to maximizing your real estate wheeling and dealing.

Shakedown: Hawaii Preview | Thunder Run

Shakedown Hawaii

Honestly, it’s here where I fear that Shakedown: Hawaii could lose some people. Some might want some depth to every game they play, and that’s fine. It’s just that there’s so much inherent joy in the refined chaos on display that it’s hard to find a reason to concentrate. This is a classic open-world, something you can give yourself over to for a few hours just tooling around. I don’t want to have to turn my brain on while playing here.

Thankfully, if the campaign does ever get too convoluted for its own good, it’s not the only option. There’s already a built-in free roaming mode and arcade challenges selectable from the main menu.

The graphics are just as good as the game’s aforementioned amazing soundtrack. Pixel art isn’t for everyone anymore, but Shakedown: Hawaii is a perfect example of why games should still use it. There’s so much detail in the faces, both in the top-down character models and the “cutscene” bodies. Character comes through with each subtle movement, making the jokes land just that much harder. The fact that all this hard work goes into a jab at MTN Dew Game Fuel makes it all that much funnier.

Shakedown: Hawaii Preview | Hollywood Harry

Shakedown Hawaii

That’s really what sets Shakedown: Hawaii apart from all its contemporaries. There’s a great level of craftsmanship on display in every mission and activity. This isn’t an original game, and you’ve probably played something similar even if you haven’t sampled Vblank’s past work. However, this game takes every one of its disparate parts and stitches them together into something that’s incredibly fun. Even after just my brief time on the island, I’m confident in saying that not many do it better than Shakedown: Hawaii and that its many strengths have a good chance of transitioning over to the final build.

GameRevolution previewed Shakedown: Hawaii on PC via the Epic Games Store with a copy provided by Epic Games.