REVIEW: Shakedown Hawaii is a Heist Worth Embarking On (PS4)

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Shakedown Hawaii

There is the old saying, “Get rich or die trying” but in the case of Shakedown Hawaii, it might be more accurate to say “Get rich by any means necessary.” In 2012 vBlank Entertainment released Retro City Rampage, an 8-bit sandbox action game greatly inspired by the pop culture of the 1980s as well as early sandbox video games.

Shakedown Hawaii is the follow-up to Retro City Rampage, taking place in Hawaii, a setting that mixes the transitional period of 1989 and 1991 with a dose of the current day world. Building upon the existing foundations of the previous game, Shakedown Hawaii provides a wild and immeasurably engaging sandbox experience, no matter what platform you play it on.

Shakedown Hawaii puts players in the role of an aging business and his CEO. For decades, Feeble Multinational dominated the marketplace with VHS, retail stores, and taxi services. Now, in an age of ride-shares, streaming, esports, tablets, and so on, the boss has been unable to keep up and is losing money. On the verge of financial ruin and bankruptcy, the CEO decides it’s time to fight back, adapt to the times, and exploit every crack in the system for profit. With him at the helm, his unemployed son, and a henchman known as ” The Consultant,” the CEO goes to war and seeks to take over the islands of Hawaii.

A quick introduction through an absolutely lively 16-bit presentation gets players straight into the action. Before players know it, they’ll be destroying rival gang vehicles with grenades, evading the police, and getting into all-out brawls with the city. Shakedown Hawaii features an abundance of gameplay types, and the incredibly polished controls and interfaces help to keep players engaged. Once players gain the basics, Shakedown Hawaii becomes very difficult to put down, with its large assortment of missions, side quests, challenges, and so on. With leaderboards, players will always be in a constant state of challenge and competition, making the game fun and gripping, especially in short bursts.

From destroying gang vehicles with machine guns, to destroying parking lots with grenades, to busting a server to fix a factory, the level of enthusiasm and passion placed into Shakedown Hawaii is a sight to behold. It looks exceptional and plays extremely well with a constant smoothness and level of polish not seen in most nostalgic-minded games. Further bolstering this experience is a presentation that feels like the early 1990s.

From its animations and pixelations to a soundtrack that would sound absolutely perfect on a Sega Genisis system the game is a solid call-back to the era. Every time a mission or challenge was completed, the urge to jump right back in for one more mission was irresistible.

The biggest strength of Shakedown Hawaii is its focus on property ownership. As the title implies, Shakedown Hawaii focuses on players shaking down the many business and tenants of the city. The goal is to own their properties and profit from the business they generate. Convenience stores, retail shops, video game esports drinks, and even a vitamin manufacturing facility all have ways to make money. Players will even focus on the filthy and exploitative business of rezoning property through various activities, such as destroying cars in a parking lot.

After owning a property, players can apply multipliers to increase their revenue and proceed to purchase more properties.  This turns Shakedown Hawaii into a property management game, infused with an action twin-stick shooter in a sandbox environment. Combined, the game becomes distinct, unique, and refreshingly different among the competition. This type of design is to be commended, as designing several different gameplay designs into one can be risky. vBlank successfully accomplished this merging of designs.

It’s worth mentioning that the game is witty and satirical and therefore very humorous throughout. Shakedown Hawaii pokes fun at various sections of everyday living, from ride-sharing applications such as Lyft and Uber, to the product placement of esports, and Double XP weekends. The callbacks to word processors, the internet, and shopping online for the first time instill a sense of nostalgia and enjoyable innocence.

A scene in which the boss is seeing a tablet with tons of advertisements was quite hilarious. More absurdities are dotted throughout the experience and creates a metaphor to simpler times in which the internet and technology were used versus the confusing and outrageous way in which the present-day has exploited technologies.

While I highly recommend Shakedown Hawaii and encourage everyone to play it on their preferred platform, more could have been done. There are no aerial vehicles or aerial vehicle missions which I feel could have been added into the game. I would have even wanted full-fledged naval or aerial battles to be included in some way or form to coincide with the abundance of vehicular-focused arcade games from the 16-bit era. Additionally, the combination of all the elements of Shakedown Hawaii is amazing but can get repetitive fairly quickly, making the game good for short to moderate sessions. Finally, for any trophy hunters out there on the PlayStation services, there is no platinum trophy.

Overall though, Shakedown Hawaii is well worth the wait, even if it just falls a few notches shy of greatness. vBlank Entertainment should be commended as this small team has created a truly remarkable and entertaining game. From its gorgeous and unmistakably Sega-like presentation to its tight gameplay, and variety of missions, Shakedown Hawaii is a vacation and a heist worth embarking on.  I can’t wait to see what kind of crime-spree we go on with vBlank Entertainment.

Shakedown Hawaii is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC

Shakedown Hawaii
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL; DR

Shakedown Hawaii is well worth the wait, even if it just falls a few notches shy of greatness. vBlank Entertainment should be commended as this small team has created a truly remarkable and entertaining game.