It feels like so long since I played Retro City Rampage now (it came out in 2012 which is insane) but I’ve always been excited to see what developer Vblank Entertainment did next. After a lot of teases on Twitter and what has felt like a very long development cycle, Shakedown: Hawaii is finally available on PC and consoles, bringing with it the all-out zany action of its predecessor but spicing it up with all new business management aspects. It takes itself a little bit more seriously than the last game too (that was about a time-travelling criminal though so it’s not hard to) but, fortunately, it still remains both light-hearted in design and a whole lot of fun to play.
In Shakedown: Hawaii you take on the role of a big boss in an illustrious company who has lived the high life, though he has also let age catch up with him and gotten a little complacent. Add to this the fact that both he and his company are a little outdated, so it’s left him in a situation where he finds that his life isn’t so stable. Of course, there’s always a solution to a problem like this: commit some crimes, baby. Oh, and modernise your business empire on the side, of course.
The concept alone shows that Shakedown: Hawaii isn’t the kind of game that takes itself too seriously, but what would you expect from the follow up to the time-bending Retro City Rampage? It offers a fun tale that isn’t afraid to mock both modern society and pop-culture, with plenty of ‘a-ha’ moments to be had throughout as you see the narrative unfold. Don’t get me wrong, some of the game’s jokes can be guilty of falling short of the mark, but its silly take on everything did more than enough to keep me engrossed in what was going on.
The best way to describe the game would be as a 16-bit Grand Theft Auto – you’ll be venturing across the game’s open-world city, running and gunning down both enemies and pedestrians in crazy action-packed missions, partaking in plenty of criminal activity, and establishing your own criminal empire. Everything about the game is simple in design too, with twin-stick gunplay in place (don’t worry, there’s a competent lock-on function too) and vehicles easy to drive around. It all just feels really good to play with no over-complicated mechanics in place; you’ll feel right at home with Shakedown: Hawaii from the moment you start playing.
Besides the traditional missions that involve killing enemies, blowing things up, collecting items, or just stamping your authority on the city, there are also plenty of mini-games and challenges to complete. It could mean using a rocket launcher to blast yourself as far as possible across the map, using a monster truck to crush as many vehicles as possible, actually repossessing civilian’s vehicles, or just working out with some aerobics – there are so many things to do in the game and it gives the whole experience an extra special dose of personality. It also means you’ll never really run out of things to do, which is always appreciated in an open-world title like this.
Of course, you’re not just here to cause destruction – you’ve also got to build you own criminal (and business) empire and that’s where Shakedown: Hawaii really shines. You’ll be able to take over a multitude of businesses in the game (some legitimately, some not so legitimately) and they all help keep a steady cash flow coming in. You’ll also be able to upgrade these businesses and complete the missions that come along with them, with each one rarely feeling like just another means to make extra money. Truth be told, the whole business empire aspect of Shakedown: Hawaii was one of my favourite things to play around with in-game; there are so many businesses to take over and there’s something really addictive about seeing your empire grow.
Between the zany action-packed gameplay, the mini-games, challenges and the business building, everything in Shakedown: Hawaii comes together to make for an incredibly fun experience. However, whilst it does prioritise player enjoyment with its varied gameplay, it never fleshes anything out all that much. Nearly all of the gameplay mechanics are simple in design, whilst the actual missions themselves never run all that long either. Don’t get me wrong, it makes the game perfect for the Nintendo Switch where it’s easy to pick up and play in small doses here and there, but there were a few moments where I wished the game would flesh things out a little bit more just to take everything to that next level immersion-wise.
One thing that deserves a lot of praise is the game’s locale, with it not only looking a whole lot better than Retro City Rampage’s city thanks to the new 16-bit style but also feels a whole lot more impressive to explore too. It feels like there is a lot more going on thanks to the unique landmarks on show and the varied environment styles, whilst the fact that Hawaii isn’t explored too often in video games helped make it stand out more too. Add to all of that a wicked soundtrack to go along with all of the exploration and action, and you’ll quickly find that Shakedown: Hawaii is a very well presented experience.
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Publisher: Vblank Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC