Back in 2012, Vblank Entertainment and Brian Provinciano struck gold with Retro City Rampage, an 8-bit take on the Grand Theft Auto genre. But this wasn’t just a typical open-world of chaos but one laden with ’80s references, catchy music, and exciting action. Now, Provinciano and his team return with the long-awaited SHAKEDOWN HAWAII, which stays true to that formula. However, this time it has a 16-bit art style and some interesting new business elements. The game does have its moments of repetition, but it proves that, despite the popular saying, the second time is indeed the charm.
Shakedown Hawaii Review | It’s just business and a little pleasure
The game puts you in the shoes of a CEO that’s all about making a sweet living. But when his business worth starts to deteriorate, he decides to take matters into his own hands – literally.
Part of the joy from Shakedown comes from being able to manipulate certain aspects of business. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase enterprises and stores around the island. But you can also manipulate variables to rake in more cash. This includes dwindling quantities of items that consumers won’t notice (like the amount of soda), or stopping a rival company’s delivery with brutal force (in this case, a bazooka).
As you make progress, you’ll be able to rake in the cash, putting your CEO back on top. It can be a little tricky at times, but the rush you feel about taking a rebate out of a consumer’s hands is as incredible as it is devious. The line “he who dies with the most gold wins” definitely applies to this guy.
That said, there are complications that arise within the family. The CEO’s son decides to try and get rich quick his own way, getting the attention of the law in the process. And there’s also a third thug with his own agenda. Between the three, trouble ensues in Shakedown Hawaii much sooner than later. But watching it all unfold is a great deal of fun, and opens up some secondary missions that add greatly to the overall replay value.
Shakedown Hawaii Review | Getting a handle on things
However you approach the game’s main storyline and side missions is completely up to you, which is Shakedown Hawaii‘s greatest asset. You can go and create chaos, or see what secondary businesses can do for you and and both make the game more replayable.
It’s this loop that will appeal to fans of Retro City Rampage. The general car and combat controls are about the same, but are still as smooth as ever no matter what control scheme you pick. You can auto-target enemies and objects, or switch things up to go for something more specific. At first, it’s a fairly easy system. But the second you get the attention of multiple cops and go on the run, the excitement truly bumps up as the chaos begins to unfold. Being a wanted criminal and blowing things up is what drives this game at its core.
There’s some variety with the missions, too. Some of the fetch quest ones can get a little tiresome but the others, like crushing vehicles with a Bigfoot look-alike or racing somewhere within precious seconds, are a blast. It’s a freeing experience since it doesn’t matter how you get to objectives, for the most part, or who you go through to get there. Just be prepared for the occasional “calm” mission in-between the wild ones. Although that sort of pacing is necessary for action this hectic.
Shakedown Hawaii Review | Nostalgic presentation, with some mildly weak jokes
Shakedown‘s presentation is also noteworthy, given its throwback style. The 16-bit style graphics pop to life, just like in a classic SNES endeavor. There are slight bugs that pop up every once in a while, which may even be intentional. But for the most part, the game has a charming look even on the PlayStation Vita screen.
This charm translates to the music as well. There’s a 16-bit style soundtrack that fits in with the proceedings just about perfectly. You’ll want to keep humming it long after you stop playing.
But the script is not quite as smooth. Instead of going for ’80s references this time around, Shakedown Hawaii goes for a more of an on-the-nose approach. There are times it truly nails its comedy, like when the CEO struggles with current technology. (Damn browsers.) But then there are times where it delivers groaners that are “final season of Big Bang Theory” kind of bad. I would’ve preferred a little more consistency, though the bad jokes are easy to sail past once you jump back into action. No biggie here.
Once you accept the corniness, then the vibe of Shakedown Hawaii will win you over. And that goes double for you Retro City Rampage fans, who Vblank knows how to hook. The studio seems to have a knack for appealing to old school players with its retro presentation with enough modern day sensibilities to feel new. And the fact that Hawaii is much, much bigger than Rampage — by three times — is a huge plus.
Shakedown Hawaii Review | Keeping things running smoothly
Despite some setbacks with the fetch quests and the bad jokes, Provinciano’s follow-up to his classic Retro City Rampage doesn’t disappoint. Shakedown Hawaii has loads of replay value, between acquisitions, mayhem, and raging through city streets. It is splendidly designed, composed, and its visuals are a great nostalgic reminder of the SNES era. It may not reinvent the wheel for classic Grand Theft Auto experiences, but it’s nice that it keeps that spin going.
GameRevolution reviewed Shakedown Hawaii on PlayStation 4 and PS Vita with a code provided by the publisher.