Review – Shakedown: Hawaii

It seems fitting that one of the last games to ever be released for the beloved Playstation Vita is a long-awaited sequel to one of the system’s first widely acclaimed titles released way back in the first months after its launch. There’s just something poetic about it. Even though Shakedown: Hawaii is available on more modern and more powerful platforms, such as the Switch, I just felt a moral obligation of testing this game on the Vita. I don’t know how many more opportunities like this one will ever show up again.

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Big trouble in little Hawaii.

Shakedown: Hawaii is the successor to Retro City Rampage, an indie darling released in 2012 to critical and commercial acclaim. Just like its predecessor, this game tries to recreate the top-down shenanigans of the first two Grand Theft Auto games with a retro coat of paint. While Retro City Rampage went for an 8-bit aesthetic, Shakedown climbs one extra step on the ladder and goes for a SNES-esque 16-bit visual style. Instead of chiptunes, Shakedown opts for a fantastic synthwave soundtrack as well.

That doesn’t mean that both games share the same atmosphere, however. Rampage relied heavily on pop culture references, nods to classic video games and cameos by indie favorites such as Steve from Minecraft. Shakedown: Hawaii does something completely different: it relies constantly on one single joke: you’re old, your mind is stuck in the past, and you’ll do whatever it takes for society around you not to modernize itself.

Everything revolves around this schtick. You’re a mogul that used to make a fortune on video rentals, VHS sales, and taxi services. For obvious reasons, in a world where Uber, Amazon, and Netflix reign supreme, you’re nearly going bankrupt. Instead of modernizing your assets to what our society wants, your task is to either raise hell for the competition or buy businesses for your brand new empire, usually by extorting them and forcing them to accept your buyout proposal.

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You’ll see the same joke being repeated ten billion times throughout the game.

The plot of the game is funny at first, but it gets tiresome pretty quickly. After the fourth of fifth time that you hear you grumpy old fart of a protagonist rant about how pathetic the whole Uber philosophy is, you start craving for the game to throw a different joke at you. Sadly, that’s how the game works to the very end. It’s all about raising hell to destroy other companies all while acquiring new firms of your own. The missions themselves are not charming not difficult. In fact, if Shakedown: Hawaii were a more linear game, I would easily consider it a disaster. Thankfully, it borrows one key aspect from the Grand Theft Auto series: it’s really fun to just fool around in the city.

The game’s map is surprisingly large for a 2D sandbox and there is plenty to do. There are over two hundred buildings to explore and most of them can be purchased. There are lots of minigames and methods to acquire money, as the game becomes very open after just a few mandatory missions. There is also a free roaming mode that throws you into the world just to wreak as much havoc as possible. That’s where the game shines: even though your character’s walking speed is a slow as molasses, picking a car and running over pedestrians or shooting everything around you with a rifle is fun. Messed up, but fun nonetheless.

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Toasty!

Shakedown: Hawaii is a good game, but it’s nowhere near as charming as its spiritual predecessor. Pop culture references were replaced with one tiresome joke on an old man not willing to get on with modern times and the over-the-top missions have been replaced with busy work completely devoid of challenge. With that being said, raising hell in this small town is still tons of fun. Shakedown: Hawaii might not shine as bright as Retro City Rampage, but it’s still a decent swan song for the underestimated beast that was the Vita.

 

Graphics: 8.0

The game’s 16-bit graphics are a perfect fit for the Vita’s small but high-quality screen. The framerate is also pretty good.

Gameplay: 6.0

It basically plays like an old-school Grand Theft Auto game, so you’ll need to revert back to getting used to this older control scheme, as well as getting used to how slow your character is when not in a vehicle.

Sound: 8.5

The game’s strongest aspect. Shakedown: Hawaii‘s soundtrack is comprised of really well-composed synthwave tunes.

Fun Factor: 6.5

There is fun to be had in Shakedown: Hawaii, especially if you miss the older Grand Theft Auto games, but its missions aren’t as memorable and its over-reliance on one type of joke throughout the entire game becomes tiresome quickly.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Shakedown: Hawaii is available now on PS4, PS Vita, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS Vita.

A copy of Shakedown: Hawaii was provided by the publisher.

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