There’s a decidedly retro feel to this week’s slate of games. What’s old is new again, with old-time Grand Theft Auto clone Retro City Rampage DX splattering the screen with references from the 1980s and 90s, and Super Mega Baseball harkening back to the roots of video game baseball. The animated series Adventure Time, which thrives on old-school references, gets another video game adaptation with The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom.
Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
(3DS, 360, PS3, $30, Everyone 10+)
After hit-and-miss adaptations as side-scrolling action games, Adventure Time takes a swing at the top-down-perspective role-playing genre popularized by Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest and The Legend of Zelda. Playing as Finn, Jake and other primary characters from the quirky show, you explore realms, upgrade items and attributes and complete myriad quests.
The grind-heavy structure grows tiring, but enough wit and humor survives the transition to keep series fans forging ahead. The game has been given short shrift by developers, stuck in last-gen other than the 3DS port, but the old hardware fits the limited demands of the show’s simplistic animation. Voice work is strong and true to the game’s core, but this is still just a decent but unspectacular adaptation, which is par for the Adventure Time game course.
Retro City Rampage DX
(PS4, PS3, Vita, $10, Teen)
Mad scientist developer Brian Provinciano spearheaded this near-solo project from day one, taking the framework of the original Grand Theft Auto games and cramming as many references from his childhood as he possibly could. As you race around the town, mowing down passers-by, cops and monsters, you may find yourself encountering characters from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, all within the span of seconds.
The updated version of Retro City Rampage adds previously released DLC and the umpteen advancements from title updates, making for a tight package that transfixes you from beginning to end. Although there’s not quite enough new stuff to justify a re-up by those who have already played the first version obsessively, the new version is a no-brainer pickup for those who missed out on the game in its first go-round. Equally funny, thrilling and entertaining, Retro City Rampage DX is an impressive achievement of a cultural mash-up.
Super Mega Baseball
(PS4, PS3, $20, Everyone)
Back when the RBI Baseball remake was announced, fans of retro sports games had high hopes of a return to the glory days of pick-up-and-play diamond thrills. Once the horrid game came out, those hopes were dashed like those of Cubs fans, but now — out of nowhere — comes a call from the bullpen that fulfills that promise. Super Mega Baseball is a throwback to Bases Loaded, Baseball Stars, Base Wars, updating simplified mechanics with a contemporary look and modernized customization options.
Although you won’t get much mileage out of the game as a solo player, the game is an excellent fit for those with roommates or kids. The major drawback is a lack of online play, which is inexcusable for a game that plays so well in short, lively spurts. The only hope is a Cubs-style “wait til next year” approach, that the game will sell enough to either justify a multiplayer patch or a sequel that turns a ground-rule double into a grand slam.