NS Review – Shakedown Hawaii (Switch)

Shakedown Hawaii is the long awaited successor to Retro City Rampage that Brian Provinciano of VBlank Entertainment has slaved over for many years until it has become a near perfect SNES styled 2D open world gangster/business management bundle of goodness.

There are three game modes, first up is story mode. This is the main mode of the game where you start out as the old lazy CEO of Feeble Multinational who is comically out of touch with the modern world but also occasionally play as his his punk DJ never worked a day in his life son as they attempt to revitalise the failing corporation through rather shady means. One of these shady means brings in the third playable character but I won’t spoil it for you.

Living the dream of a purple top hat and handle bar moustache.

As missions progress you unlock more business ventures that help increase your companies assets and daily revenue, these mostly consist of the good ole fashioned shaking down establishments for protection money in a wide variety of ways ranging from destroying a toilet to taking out 10 uzi armed bodyguards. This isn’t all, as Shakedown Hawaii gives you plenty of other not quite legal money making options too such as carjacking certain cars and destroying online delivery trucks. The variation keeps Shakedown Hawaii from becoming samey. You use your daily revenue to slowly buy out the entire island, with some purchases allowing you to then purchase additional revenue multipliers or bringing up side missions. The whole corporation management meta game has been created with care and excellent tongue in cheek humour making me chuckle many a time as I forcibly conquer Hawaii.

Everyone needs bananas.

Secondly there’s arcade missions which are fast and frantic bite sized chunks of arcadey awesome sauce perfectly suited to the handheld play of the Switch or 3DS, whereby even usually menial tasks such as smashing crates and collecting the sweet bounty from within was an action packed thrilling minute of pure joy. There are individual weapons challenges and more unique score challenges including bystander bowling and crushing cars with a monster truck. These are also dotted around the map in story mode.

Nothing can withstand the awesome might of a monster truck, even if it isn’t actually bigger than a bus.

The final mode is free roam, which has never been so fun. You start with unlimited weapons, money and lives and wreak havoc on the city. The perfect way to spend a few minutes waiting for or riding a bus.

There are tons of weapons from your trusty shotgun to the quirky death bringing hair dryer of ultimate doom (disclaimer: not its actual name). The cover system from Retro City Rampage is back to in an expanded form, you can even take cover behind useless things such as a big wavy plant but VBlank did miss a trick as you can’t use human meat shields with the cover mechanic. Almost everything is destructible from the retro bubble gum machines inside a sweet shop to the sea wall that can be taken down with scissors or ridden through on a bicycle.

Burning stuff is fun.

The gameplay is fluid and fantastically fun except driving. Driving feels stiff all the cars feel pretty much the same, they all handle and brake like the tyres are made of super glue but also have a worse steering angle than a double decker bus. This would be the only gameplay improvement I’d love to see, particularly a change to the traction of cars. A hand brake would be nice too, everyone loves a good hand brake turn (emergency brake for our Americano friends) especially when on the run from the fuzz.

Nothing beats a cool drink after murdering bodyguards and trashing a shop.

Back to the real world where you can run into the street and trip over pixel art games I haven’t seen one that has actually impressed me graphically for a long time and despite Shakedown Hawaii having simpler graphics than many pixel art games, I must take my metaphorical hat off, perhaps because it truly looks like it could have been a 16 bit SNES game. Added to the fact amount of different graphic filters is simply astounding and all look so good I had to take screenshots to decide my favourite setting. You can have twice zoomed in mode which doesn’t actually do the graphics justice but does allow you to see the small details such as being able to slowly cut all of someone’s hair off before running away from an angry baldy. There’s a wide-screen tube TV mode which looks most excellent, 10 different colour filters of which my favourite are the Entertainment system i.e. SNES and Giga blurst which is vibrant like the SNES but has a few more colours allowing more detail and distinction, the others look blander and sepia toned in comparison. The Gameboy filter is a nice touch as well the back to the roots DOS filter.

Shame it’s Gameboy Pocket style and not the original green but a nice addition nonetheless.

The sound effects hit you the moment you start the game and take you back to a better place, a place where you joyfully inserted your small change into arcade cabinets and were taken on a magical journey. VBlank have absolutely captured the magical sound of the arcade, it is genuinely so good I’m tempted to buy the PC version too so that I can hear the bodies crunch as I run people over on a bicycle though my studio monitor speakers. Unfortunately not all sound effects are born equal as all the cars sound like a remote control car that’s run out of batteries. I’d like to day that’s the only bad news as far as sound goes but the music actually almost ruins the arcade/SNES immersion like a fish counter next to the bakery in a supermarket.

It’s important to keep investing in the corporate side as daily revenue soon flies up to $100k+.

I’ll be playing Shakedown Hawaii for many moons as it’s so good one my biggest complaints is that there’s a next weapon button but not a previous weapon button, you have to freeze gameplay to go to the weapon menu to go back one. But despite all this, is Shakedown Hawaii worth a purchase? Well that all depends on your views on retro styled games, GTAesque games and management games. The corporation management keeps the whole reason to be running around creating mayhem fresh and interesting. There are 111 story missions so it’ll keep you going. Most importantly the gameplay is pretty damn fun. Honestly I haven’t been smacked in the face with greatness by a video game this quickly since Mario Odyssey. Grand praise indeed but if Shakedown Hawaii isn’t one of the best games of the year I’ll knit a (miniature) hat (out of pasta) and eat it.

Shakedown Hawaii is available digitally on Nintendo Switch from 7th April 2019, digitally on 3DS soon and physically on Switch in the future. Thank you to VBlank Entertainment for providing the download code and making such an awesome game.

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