Shakedown Hawaii review (Vita)

Vblank Entertainment’s follow-up to 2012’s Retro City Rampage DX has landed, and luckily for Vita owners it didn’t pass Sony’s handheld by. It’s also out for the Switch and PS4 and should land on 3DS as well, but we stuck with the Vita version since that’s where we enjoyed Retro City Rampage DX.

As the Vita entered the later stages of its life cycle, it more and more became a platform for ports and remakes of indie games. Ratalaika’s provided us with a steady stream of games that follow this pattern, and Sometimes You is another example of such a developer. It’s a trend that makes you nostalgic for games you’d like to see ported or remade for the Vita one day as well. Titles like The Lost Vikings, Civilization and the classic NHL games come to mind. Grand Theft Auto (the original 2D one) also fits in that list, but Vblank already had a similar idea years ago and Retro City Rampage DX was the result.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Shakedown Hawaii follows a similar pattern – but updates the visuals from an 8-bit inspired look to something more akin a Super NES game. There’s also a new angle in terms of the story and campaign, which now has you take control of a CEO of a business that’s is facing tough times. He decides it’s time for action and to really take charge – but not in the business sim sense.

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Having said that, some of the action you’ll undertake does have a lot to do with a certain kind of “business savvy”. You can thwart rival businesses by forcefully taking out their supply lines, or generate new sources of income (or cut down on expenses) in less than savory ways – but this completely fits with the theme of the game.

Trouble, not surprisingly, arises quickly – as your son gets involved with shady dealings of his own and your actions also attract the attention of the law and rivals. There’s a main storyline to follow, but as you play you’ll also see plenty of side missions open up, giving you the opportunity to either extend your playthrough considerably and/or play through the campaign a second time and make different choices (the side missions often have to do with how you “run your business”).

If you played Retro City Rampage DX on the Vita, you’ll be right at home with the controls in Shakedown Hawaii – they’re quite similar both on foot and while driving – and they still feel great. The biggest testament to that is that I never struggled with them, even though the game has a ton of diversity in its gameplay and mission design. Some are slow-paced point to point objective chasing quests, but others are wild and explosive getaways or chases. The variety between them keeps things fun and interesting as well.

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The visuals and audio are excellent as well – fitting perfectly with the early 90s era of gaming that Vblank is echoing with their latest title. Colorful console-style graphics and catchy ditties give a sense of nostalgia to the game, though this was more prevalent in Retro City Rampage with its 80s vibe. In Shakedown Hawaii, while the audiovisual presentation says “16-bit”, the narrative itself is rooted in the present.

Going with the Retro City Rampage comparison a little more – the game map in Shakedown is over twice the size of the previous game, and it’s a game world that’s densely populated with things to do. The Sony PSP had three excellent Grand Theft Auto games, but the franchise never graced the Vita. Luckily, we have Vblank to thank for their two contributions to the genre.

Score: 8.1/10

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