While indie games used to get a bad rap for being poorly made, in recent years they’ve come into their own. Some will even make you forget they’re independent at all. We’ve covered plenty of indie games at MakeUseOf, but one that’s missed the spotlight is Retro City Rampage.
Retro City Rampage (RCR) is a throwback game that is summarized in a single phrase: an 8-bit version of Grand Theft Auto with more 80s and 90s references than you can count. It originally released in 2012 on PC, but since then it’s migrated to almost every modern platform.
Its recently re-released DX version adds tweaks across the board. Let’s see what’s different in RCR DX and why there’s no better time to experience this gem!
A Better Map
The original RCR provided an in-game map for players, and being an open-world title, it was a necessity. However, the map didn’t zoom, and trying to pinpoint where you wanted to go was an issue, since the icons crowded each other.
The map has been completely reworked for the Deluxe version, allowing players to zoom in, filter icons, and even set waypoints. Theftropolis isn’t as massive as Los Santos, but it’s still nice to know where you are at any time. If you played the original, this will certainly be one of the most welcome changes.
New Filters, Borders, and HUD
RCR has a story mode, but a lot of the fun comes from just messing around in the open world. Whether that means cranking up your wanted level and fleeing the cops, searching for secrets scattered throughout the city, or just trying out the different weapons and power-ups, Retro City Rampage has a lot to play with.
While you’re fooling around, you might enjoy RCR’s built-in color filters. Alternatives include Game Boy, Virtual Boy (fully red!), and Sepia. If that’s not enough retro goodness, try out the borders. You can mimic the Super Game Boy or a classic arcade cabinet around the screen.
Other small changes add up to a smoother gameplay experience. A reworked HUD stays out of the way, allowing you to see more of the screen and offers a more immersive experience. Additionally, weapons can be switched quickly by opening a new menu with the tap of a button. Another welcome change is the ability to choose between three different levels of zoom; fantastic since the original game felt like it was a bit too far out.
RCR’s missions are varied and provide lots to do, but when the game first launched, lots of users had complaints. For instance, cars moved at a snail’s pace, the teaching of some mechanics was easily missed, and some parts were extra-tough. Thankfully, the developer, Brian Provinciano, listened to players and reworked many of these missions.
The DX upgrade features improvements across the board in the missions. Enemies are removed where there were too many, or an additional platform was added to simplify a jump. Cars now move fast enough to justify using them, and the early missions make sure that you’ve grasped the basics (in a satirical way, of course). Over time, this game’s rough edges have been whipped into shape, and it’s a much better experience for these small edits.
It’s Easier To Get Weapons And Lose The Cops
Theftropolis is a rough place; when you get killed, you’ll drop every weapon that you were carrying. Since you can wield everything from golf clubs to flamethrowers, this can be a disappointment and building your stock back up can take a while. Thankfully, in RCR DX you’re able to buy weapons from vendors around town. If you’re testy, try stealing instead.
The cops aren’t chumps either. In the original version of the game, if they were on your tail, you had some serious work to do to get them off. Now, however, after you defeat a few cops they’ll drop a stealth token, which will effectively lose your wanted level immediately. If a massive chase is what you seek, you can turn this option off, but otherwise it’s nice to know that you don’t have to engage in a ten-minute battle every time you accidentally run a few people over.
Reworked Trophies And Challenges
Trophy Hunters go for the easiest platinums possible, and while RCR doesn’t have a platinum trophy, it does have a handful to earn. The original ones were a tough bunch, so they’ve been reworked for the re-release. You won’t earn them just for playing normally, but they’re much more reasonable this time.
In addition to the story and side missions, you can also partake in sprees like the video above. These challenges have you causing as much chaos as possible in 30 seconds, and if you’re good enough you’ll earn medals and might even make it to the leaderboards. Like the rest of the missions, these have been balanced, tying into the Trophies.
Everything The Original Gained
Unless you played Retro City Rampage when it first released, you might not realize how many changes it had gone through before the DX upgrade. As mentioned, the original game had some issues, among them slow cars and frustrating missions, but that’s not all that got a makeover. A notable new side feature is a jukebox allowing you to enjoy the game’s awesome music at will.
Added to RCR partway through its life was ROM City Rampage, a playable tech demo of Provinciano’s original idea of GTA on the NES. He’s even provided information showing how close RCR is to being able to actually run on an NES. That’s authenticity!
If you don’t want to take advantage of all the new features and enhanced graphics for some reason, all you have to do is toggle a setting and you’ll be playing the first iteration of the title. Even there, you can still enjoy the arcade games featuring other indie stars, different playable characters in free roam mode, good old cheat codes, haircuts and plastic surgery to change your character, and awesome 8-bit music.
Should You Get Retro City Rampage DX?
Unless you’ve already played RCR DX on 3DS or completed the game recently, it’s totally worth picking up this refresh. Every platform that already carried the game gets the DX update for free, along with PS4 and Mac, which are getting it for the first time. You’ll be able to find the game on a platform you own for sure.
If you’re the type of person that hates to replay games this isn’t radically different enough for a second purchase, but if you started the game soon after it came out and were frustrated by some of its issues, you have a perfect chance to give it another try.
Retro City Rampage shouldn’t be overlooked by any gamer, especially those who grew up in the 80s or 90s. The Deluxe edition is the best way to experience this gem, and its reduced price sweetens the deal even more.
Looking for fewer pixels in your open-world violence? Grand Theft Auto V may be the game for you.
Retro City Rampage DX is available now for $10. You can pick up the game DRM-free from the developer for PC (includes either a Steam or GOG key, plus the Mac version), on Steam for Windows and Mac, Wii and Wii U, 3DS, Xbox 360 ($15), PS4, PS3, and Vita (Cross-Buy for all 3). If you already bought the game, you should receive a free update to the DX version.
For platform differences and full information, please see the developer’s chart.