Game Review #344: Shakedown: Hawaii (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Publisher: Vblank Entertainment
Category: Action, Adventure, Arcade
Release Date: 5.7.2019
Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy Shakedown: Hawaii from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Why The Vblank Stare On Your Face?
If you’re a fan of open-world action games, then you’ve obviously played the classic GTA games; but did you ever play the original? Before GTA 3 came in and changed the landscape of gaming for years to come with its open-world third-person action game format, it was a top-down bird’s-eye-view action game that so many indie developers pull inspiration from now. One of those developers is Canadian developer Vblank, who created the insanely fun and nostalgic Retro City Rampage. It was a parody of retro games and '80s and '90s pop culture, as well as Grand Theft Auto and similar games.
Since RCR dropped, it garnered a cult following that gobbled up the game in digital form, but also saw two physical releases that have become quite rare. Ever since it became popular, people have wondered what’s next for the Canadian developer, and that project is finally here, with Shakedown: Hawaii. So, let’s take a look to see if it was worth the wait.
Grand Theft Capitalism
Decades after founding Hawaii-based conglomerate, Feeble Multinational, and writing a best-selling business advice book, the aging and out-of-touch CEO of Feeble learns that his company is on the verge of bankruptcy, with online shopping, video streaming, and ride-share apps sapping Feeble's profits from its retail stores, VHS rentals, and taxi services.
The CEO, together with his unemployed adult son, Scooter, and a henchman known only as "The Consultant", band together to rebuild Feeble into a corporate empire. Their arsenal of unscrupulous tactics includes violating consumer protection standards, razing buildings to make way for redevelopment, competing on a dangerous game show, destroying package-delivery trucks, raiding a drug cartel, and shaking down other businesses (pun intended).
Buy Everything Up & Kill Your Competition
The game drops you into an open-world island that I believe is supposed to be a take on Hawaii in the ‘80s—though I was getting major Miami Vice vibes, but I’m sure it was still a source of inspiration, like many pop culture things of that era. Like RCR, the display is a top-down perspective with over 200 accessible buildings, and almost everything in the environment is destructible.
In addition to a story mode that follows the three main characters, the player can break away from missions to free-roam the map and extort local businesses, use a variety of weapons to cause chaos, attempt arcade-like challenges and mini-games, purchase real-estate in a market that fluctuates in response, steal cars, or purchase clothing from stores.
Combat is similar to Retro City Rampage, and involves using a wide variety of weapons to destroy enemies, vehicles, and property. The controls are fairly simple, with the left stick/D-pad moving your character, and the right stick aiming or looking around. Pressing X will allow you to “borrow” any vehicle in the game you can get your hands on, and the left stick will accelerate the vehicle in whatever direction you steer it to. Y is the action button, allowing you to punch, shoot, or wield one of the many blunt instruments available to you, like bats or batons. You can access the menu with the left bumper, or quick menu with right bumper.
You have to manage your menu and decide how you are going to play the game. The way I see it, you can play three different ways: 1) you can just play the main campaign missions, follow the main storyline, and do one-off mini-games or rampages when they arise, buying up property when needed to further your story; 2) you can just do as I’ve heard a couple people do and become full-on monopoly man, buying up every damn property in the game, making millions per minute and watch your profits come in like you’re Scrooge McDuck; or 3) just do what so many GTA players do and just screw around, robbing places, murdering the guy walking his dog that looks at you funny, and then battle the cops that think they’re gonna take you down.
The twist that I didn’t see coming was, not only do you get the game parodies and awesome ‘80s references, but also the underlining story of capitalism that was weaved into the narrative and the gameplay. This was a brilliant move that I found gave the game balance, where some may see it as just an added option to the missions.
Also, I mentioned before that the environments are able to be destroyed inside places and outside in the open world; this was one of my favorite mini-games—of which there are a lot—as they equipped me with a gatling gun and told me to go have fun. It’s a blast blowing things to hell and watching all the neighborhood thugs and cops try to stop me as I begin to feel like I’m slipping into God mode. When the shit got too crazy, I’d just run away, remodeling fellow neighbors’ yards with my car before jumping into the ocean for a dip and losing the cops. This never got old for me, just like how going on a full-on rampage in GTA never got old. This game is going to be a blast for years to come, and even though it’s new, I can’t wait for Vblank’s next project.
Audio & Visuals
The music is deeply rooted in ‘80s beats and fits the game’s setting of the ‘80s island perfectly. It’s upbeat beat mostly, then, at times, it can get very dark; and when it does, the synth wave sounds begin to remind me of music from Hotline Miami.
The visuals are gorgeous and delightful when down this well. If Retro City Rampage was 8-bit NES graphics, then Shakedown: Hawaii is 16-bit graphics from the Sega Genesis, and man, do they look great! I understand this took a long time to come out, but our patience was rewarded with a great-looking game.
It’s A Wrap!!!
Everything about this game was a blast for me. I feel like Vblank took the RCR formula and just updated and upgraded everything, giving it a fresh coat of paint and a new engine on which to run. I see this being one I come back to over and over. I highly recommend buying this now to have it in your collection, and then signing up to Vblank’s newsletter, so when it becomes physical, we can continue to support indie developers that don’t cut corners, and bring fun fully fleshed-out games.
Buy Shakedown: Hawaii from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Vblank Entertainment