The 80’s. Neon lights, big hair, video stores and mixtapes. But as the ageing CEO of Feeble Multinational finds out, it’s not the 80’s any more; having neglected his business empire for years, he’s shocked to learn that the world’s moved on. Video and record stores have died to streaming; online shopping has put local retailers in jeopardy, and increasingly pervasive subscription models get more income than one-and-done software purchases. In order to save his lifestyle, the CEO, his unemployed son, Scooter, and prime henchman ‘The Consultant’ set out to Shakedown: Hawaii.
Shakedown: Hawaii released on the PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and, recently, the Nintndo Switch – This is the version I am reviewing today. Much like VBlank Entertainment’s previous game, Retro City Rampage, Shakedown: Hawaii is an homage to the arcade-like GTA clones of yesteryear. Set in a fictionalised version of Honolulu, you’re free to ignore the main plot and go around the city wreaking havoc: You can drive, shoot, steal, and destroy virtually whatever you want; and I really do mean that – the destructibility has been dialled up to an extreme here, with many items featuring unique sprites for various states of damage, with them shaking and wobbling in reaction to your hits. It’s rather satisfying.
But, should you choose to follow the plot, you’ll find a humorous, if fairly simple storyline of your group encountering and trying to dominate different types of industry. The game features over 120 story missions, which are mostly quick tasks, with frequent animated cutscenes; the first few missions are tutorials that help players understand the basics of the game, and introduce more unique concepts like managing property.
The CEO has decided that the best way to secure his way of life is to quite literally buy out Hawaii – By completing missions and purchasing properties, the CEO will unlock more and more of the island’s locations he can buy. Some places won’t want to sell for a long time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be exploited earlier: The CEO can put on a disguise and shake said business down for a ‘subscription’ – Protection money. These usually involve destroying store stock, harassing or fighting staff or, even more brutally, leaving bad Yelp reviews for a place. It’s an amusing addition to the hectic gameplay that can earn you large amounts of daily income, which you can increase further by upgrading your owned stores.
Money can also be spent on a variety of things from weapons, to clothes and hairstyles – Shakedown: Hawaii allows you to heavily customise each of the three protagonists (or, at least, their sprites, as your agent will point out in one mission), allowing for a wide array of contemporary and 80’s aesthetics to deck yourself out with. You can also customise your disguise for shaking down at costume stores, essentially allowing you to have two looks per character.
Graphically, the title uses a highly-polished 16-bit style, with smooth animations that make the game world feel very much alive. It’s set in the modern-era, so prepare to see people busy taking pics with selfie-sticks and streaming their day-to-day as you pick them up and throw them into traffic. The soundtrack are moody, 80’s synth beats that pair with the game’s aesthetics wonderfully: It’s not old-school in terms of bit, but it is in terms of decade.
The game controls smoothly, and simply; you can do everything contextually with a button press, and you can even lock on and strafe in fire fights. The options for the title are fairly basic, but honestly, it didn’t need much.
Shakedown: Hawaii is – much like predecessor Retro City Rampage – a chaotic bit of fun. It’s prettier and smoother than its ancestor, and the addition of buying and shaking down businesses provides more of a tangible goal than that game had. If a more casual, play-as-you-wanna bit of chaos sounds fun to you, I’d strongly recommend giving this game a look.