Pandemonium in Paradise
Title: Shakedown: Hawaii
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Publisher: Vblank Entertainment
Platform(s): PS4, PC, Switch (reviewed), Playstation Vita, 3DS
Release: May 7, 2019
OK, quick show of hands - how many of you played the first two Grand Theft Auto games? Well, for those who started their criminal career with GTA3, you'll find out that the first two games in the series (technically three when you count GTA London) were quite different from the current games we all know and love. The original titles still featured the same level of violence and chaos that the series is known for, but it was in 2D, and from a top-down view (a la the original Legend of Zelda).It was a sign of the times; consoles and computers were struggling with the transition from pixels to polygons, and exploring the open frontier of online gaming was still a good 5-6 years away. The original Grand Theft Auto was an amazing and fun game at the time, and paved the way for an abundance of M-rated games. Now, while the newer GTA games are leaps and bounds better than the originals, many still have a soft spot in their heart for the simplistic nature of the earlier GTAs.
Luckily, with the popularity of retro homage games (see: Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained), we're still able to have an experience similar to when we stayed up all night at a friend's house, taking turns playing the game. And to this point, we have yet another great throwback to games of old: Shakedown Hawaii.
A spiritual successor to 2012's hit Retro City Rampage, Shakedown Hawaii features more of the same car-stealing, chaos-causing, money-making action that made Retro City such a fun place to visit. However, this game does not continue any story, so you don't have to know a lot going in. Just load up the game and you can jump right into the story.
The Tip and the Top
There are a lot of things that Shakedown: Hawaii not only does right, but also shines in. The first would have to be the game's characters and story. I have mentioned this before, but we don't really see a lot of comedy in games. Most times, video games take themselves too seriously, and rarely do we get a chance to just sit down and chuckle at the absurdity of what we're playing. Thankfully, Shakedown: Hawaii's story brings the laughs. You play as a middle-aged, out-of-touch company CEO who is trying to stop his business from going bankrupt. Like the typical wacky neighbor of any sitcom, this results in get-rich-quick schemes that ultimately blow up in the character's face, oftentimes to hilarious results.
The wit and humor prevalent in Shakedown: Hawaii is great, and something we don't see a lot of these days. Whereas Retro City Rampage poked fun at 80's pop culture, Hawaii riffs on modern society in general. Reading the dialogue between characters as they make offhanded comments about such things as Double XP and Microsoft's decision not to include a rechargeable battery in the Xbox One controller definitely results in a few laughs.
The game also features a ton of content. There's so much to do in Hawaii: you can buy and manage businesses, sabotage other companies' delivery trucks so you can earn more, and, as the title implies, shake down stores to earn "protection" money. There's so much to do that you'll easily find yourself in squirrel mode; running around doing all the fun side stuff while ignoring the campaign missions.
Shakedown: Hawaii's graphics, sounds, and controls are all on point as well. The game looks like an old-school GTA game, albeit with more modern animations and colors. Cut-scenes, while not strongly animated, are detailed and give more life to the characters. The music is awesome, with the synthesized tunes very reminiscent of 80's songs. The game controls well, using the system's dual analog sticks for movement and directional shooting.
The Flip and the Flop
While there is a lot to enjoy in Shakedown: Hawaii, it's not all paradise. The missions can start to feel pretty repetitive, and with all the stores to shake down, things could get monotonous pretty quickly. Also, while I loved playing as the main character, scenes where you controlled his son or enforcer felt kind of tacked-on. I would have much preferred the entire game from his perspective. Finally, the camera isn't as panned out as much as I would have liked. Sometimes when following the mini-map, a turn came up way too fast and I had to react quickly, mowing down several pedestrians. It was funny, sure, but not what I had intended. This doesn't make the game unplayable, but still minor annoyances.
Final Grade: B+
Shakedown: Hawaii shows its love for the Grand Theft Auto series pretty loudly. It doesn't try to be anything other than a funny, enjoyable adventure with some strange and fascinating characters. There's a lot in this game to keep you busy, and it definitely earns its price tag. If you're looking to 100% it, things may get a little tedious, but by the time you're finished, you'll still have that grin on your face. And after all, isn't that what gaming is all about?
Review copy provided by VBlank