Game Review: Shakedown: Hawaii (PS Vita)

It’s finally time for VBlank Entertainment’s new game to see the light of day. “Retro City Rampage” had very, very long legs, with the DX version seeing multiple physical releases, up to last month, even! But how does its successor measure up? Is “Shakedown: Hawaii” worthy of such heritage? Or has this open-world 16-bit inspired romp fallen short of the hype?

The reality is that, sadly, the game was being judged with the wrong stick from the get go. It shouldn’t really be seen as a product “competing” with its predecessor, but rather a new game from a very, very small and niche developer. “Retro City Rampage” had nostalgia to fall back on in terms of story and pop culture references – a time when arcades ruled, when Gala bingo was a great social night out and digital music didn’t exist. In contrast, “Shakedown: Hawaii” is a commentary on the modern-day, technology-driven society that we live in. And that didn’t sit quite right with a lot of people. They said the game lacked charm because of it.

Nonsense.

Lacks charm? Does this overworld look like it lacks charm to you?

I was alive in the 80s and 90s. I don’t need a game to relive it. There’s nothing we can do about what happened back then, anyway. It’s in the past. But the social commentary on how the streaming-and-same-day-delivery industry is killing small businesses is very much relevant today. And that really is something we can talk and do something about. To me, while this game is a super fun, top-down, Grand Theft Auto-inspired open-world romp, the social commentary elevates it above its predecessor due to sheer relevance. And that is something we don’t see very much in gaming.

Sure, you’re basically a crook living off past glory. And the gameplay is the core of it all: you go around the city, beating people into submission, bribing, extorting and generally conniving. It’s very reminiscent of the first two GTA games, and indeed “Retro City Rampage” (and the much less talked-about, but really rather brilliant “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” on the DS and PS): a top-down game where you can destroy pretty much everything, beat or kill anyone, all on the road to increase your revenue stream and succeed over the greedy large streaming corporations.

Indeed!

The story is minimal, and some have complained that the missions are same-y. But I’ve found them really enjoyable, particularly if you take some time off to wander around the world, do some side-missions, play some of the (TONS) of mini-games, and go after stuff like getting as many properties bought as you can. There really are tons of similarities between this and the other games I mentioned before in terms of gameplay, so don’t expect to be surprised much. Amused, though, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be.

And isn’t really what gaming is all about? I’ve seen perhaps a handful of games really revolutionize gaming in my lifetime. It’s unfair to expect “Shakedown: Hawaii” to absolutely change the core of retro-inspired open-world romps. How much room is there really to grow within the genre?

Presentation is fantastic, with great 16-bit artstyle that manages to set itself apart form other retro-inspired games by making EVERYTHING animated, and music that is absolutely great (you can, of course, change radio stations when you’re in a vehicle).

If you take the game for what it is, then, there’s plenty of fun to be had. The characters are basic but funny, I love the social commentary, the main story is accompanied by side-missions and mini-games, there’s properties to purchase, locales to extort… There is basically a hell of a lot of content. And it’s fun, too, as long as you don’t focus on finishing the story in one straight sitting. Just don’t go in expecting to have your world shaken and your morals questioned. It won’t revolutionize the industry, but it sure as hell is a fun ride to play through. And that’s absolutely fine by me. 

Oh, did I mention it’s cross-buy with PS3 and PS4?

At a glance:

  • Title: Shakedown: Hawaii
  • Publisher: VBlank
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PS Vita Card / PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: TBC
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes

Vita Player Rating - 09

 

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