What defines a video game as a port?
Often this refers to when a game appears on a different platform to the one it was designed for, yet remaining as close to the original version as possible. Then Retro City Rampage DX for the 3DS cannot be deemed a mere port when compared to the other versions of the game found on Xbox 360, PS3, Vita, and PC. This DX version is specifically created for the 3DS, incorporating all of the previous updates released for the PC version, as well being carefully redesigned to run at its best on the new system utilising the benefits of a second screen.
The DX version can be seen as a labour of love by the games creator, Brian Provinciano, and has subsequently been described as the definitive version of the game. Great care has been made to utilise the second screen as effectively as possible, resulting in a unique UI (User Interface) as well as most of the HUD (Heads Up Display) being moved away from the top screen, freeing up more valuable screen space. The smaller screen found on the handheld led to the creation of a “dynamic” camera which zooms in and focuses on the player. This change not just solves the problem of moving the game to a smaller screen but actually creates a more immersive and pleasing experience.
Whilst initially it might seem a shame that this version of the game has not been given a 3D treatment, its absence is understandable considering it is largely a one man operation. Besides it would not have added that much to the experience, given that the game is trying to emulate games from the 80s. Despite the technically less superior quality screens on the 3DS, the visuals are spot on and still look sharp. This is aided by the updated visual effects and enhancements.
Along with the visual enhancements, Provinciano has gone through every mission and tweaked them for this version. This has also seen the inclusion of additional checkpoints throughout the missions. Whilst some may decry this as making the game easier, in practise it makes the game more forgiving, as well as being appropriate for a handheld title. Moreover the game still has its difficult moments and becomes particularly challenging by the end, requiring the full attention of the player.
Throughout the game the player will come across a varying array of missions, including the almost obligatory stealth mission. These can at times be infuriating and require a keen ear due to the subtle audio cues indicating danger. Then there are the staple of old school games, the dreaded water level. Whilst they are not too challenging for a water level, their inclusion seem to serve the role of providing another retro styled joke than that of a noteworthy level, with the “Player” groaning ‘Not another water level’.
Towards the end the game starts to play with frustration, such as trying to find a hidden exit whilst every other enemy in the room has a rocket launcher. This frustration is kept central to the experience during the last couple of hours. The last section of the game ceases to resemble that which the player has gone through up until that point. Disregarding any experience gained so far and relying on “video game logic” in order to win. Whilst completing the final level is rewarding, unless the player is familiar with older video game conventions they might struggle to understand what is required to win, as they cannot do so via attrition.
Along with the missions that comprise the core of the game is the inclusion of mini games. These range from casino style games to specially created remakes of other indie titles such as BIT.TRIP and a Virtual Boy inspired version of Super Meat Boy. Continuing with the theme of other indie games is the inclusion of cameos from fellow indie developers and prominent video game journalists throughout the game. Encompassing this are the not so subtle references to 80s film/TV and video games which essentially define the game. The crux of this lies with the main aim of the game being to fix the time machine, therefore sanctioning substantial references to Back to the Future, and the first mission involving a bank heist setting itself up for numerous Batman references.
Outside of the main game are the Arcade Challenges which are very enjoyable timed missions, with the aim to get the highest score based on the circumstances of that particular challenge. This often equates to pure mayhem, something that would not seem out of place when people mess around in Grand Theft Auto games. The challenges are good for short bursts, but they significantly add to the longevity of the game. Then there is also a Free Roaming Mode which can be played with other characters unlocked in the main game and players are free to create even more mayhem without the hindrance of a time limit or objective. These extras help add to the solid seven hour length of the main game, and that’s excluding the hidden extras which are dotted around.
Overall Retro City Rampage DX is a worthwhile addition to the 3DS, and this is definitely the superior version. As despite the PC version being very similar, the form factor of the 3DS really lends itself well to this type of game. Whilst it does offer a noteworthy challenge at times, it is on the whole fair, and is greatly aided by the increase in checkpoints. If you are unfamiliar with old school video games and media from the 80s and 90s then many of the gags will be lost on you, plus parts of the gameplay are unlikely to make much sense. But if you are a fan of the video games and media from the past, and/or preferential to indie game sensibilities, then an enjoyable ride awaits. Even if you have played Retro City Rampage before, the changes made in this DX version are extensive enough to warrant travelling back in time to Theftropolis again.