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Before delving into this over-the-top, open-world extravaganza that Vblank Entertainment has tirelessly crafted over the last two years, it seems only appropriate that we give a nod to said developers for their marketing strategy. Whilst I know little to nothing about effective marketing in the games industry, one thing is for sure, this game has been successfully teased, teased, and teased again since 2017. Somehow, amongst the abundance of indie releases in that time, Shakedown: Hawaii has managed to remain firmly in the minds of the masses with cries of ‘When is it being released?’ ringing out time and time again.
With such fanfare comes a weight of expectation which can be hard to bear. Have Vblank Entertainment succeeded, or did it all come on top? Find out, here at Two Beard Gaming.
Flamboyant, detailed and polished…
From the off, it is evident that the two years spent developing Shakedown: Hawaii has not been wasted. The 16-bit visuals are exactly what I wanted them to be: flamboyant, detailed and polished. They set the tone for the title perfectly, and improve upon the previous outing, Retro City Rampage DX, in almost every conceivable way. The town is brimming with personality, and each time I left, I was keen to get back to it again.
Coupled with the aesthetics is a soundtrack that compliments the 16-bit style. It is a reminder of a time when this graphical style was prevalent and works extremely well. It is funky, fresh and typically ’80s – very much in keeping with the visuals. Although enjoyable, a pumping hip-hop or ’80s rock soundtrack of official songs would have been a welcome addition.
It is only natural that references are made to the original Grand Theft Auto series when discussing the games that Vblank Entertainment have created. This is most definitely a compliment to the development team, however, it can sometimes create a shadow that a game can never emerge from. Personally, I feel that Retro City Rampage struggles in that regard, but Shakedown: Hawaii does not. It has demonstrated it is much more than another ‘GTA clone’, as it could so easily have been referenced. I see a very successful future for this series if Vblank Entertainment continues to focus on what makes these titles so good.
A modern world
Focussed on an ‘ageing CEO who is struggling to make sense of the modern world’, the storyline sees you work to take over Hawaii by purchasing, creating and developing businesses, all via ‘illegitimate’ means. It is here that another cult reference can be made, with the similar open-world experience of Scarface: The World Is Yours. Starting from the bottom, you make money from your investments and re-invest them to own all of the available assets on the world map.
The purchasing of assets on the world map is extensive – this will provide immense enjoyment for some and tedium for others. Personally, I was somewhat in the middle: the use of multipliers to increase the amount of daily income was a great idea and I was keen to own as much of Hawaii as possible, even if it felt overwhelming at times that there are over 400 properties to own.
To keep the story engaging, there are three characters with interweaving stories that you can take control of in Shakedown: Hawaii. This was an excellent decision, and served to keep things interesting – even if the missions they were completing weren’t always that intriguing. I found in the latter parts of the game that missions were very similar in design, and with 111 main missions to complete, this did take its toll. Whilst I was grateful for the opportunity to spend as much time playing Shakedown: Hawaii as I could, I felt that a spot of variety wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The missions themselves range from pick-up and drop-off to all-out gang warfare, with all manner of weapons and vehicles at your disposal. These handle well, with the driving being particularly enjoyable and the creative weapons available offering some moments of hilarity. I particularly liked the inclusion of boats as this allowed for exploration of the open waters, and a mission involving a hairdryer demonstrated just how whacky this game can be. It is the chaos of a car chase or a shoot-out in the jungle which provide those moments of game design ingenuity that Vblank Entertainment are becoming renowned for, and I can see why they wanted to offer these moments as often as possible.
The aforementioned Retro City Rampage DX almost had too much packed into it, with so many different gameplay elements that it became uncoordinated and confusing. This latest effort from Vblank Entertainment doesn’t suffer in the same way, and it is clear that they have tried to provide a balance. It works, for the most part, with only one or two moments where I had wished for more.
Shakedown: Hawaii is everything it needed to be to be a successful title. It blends an open-world environment with a linear storyline to great effect, and provides carnage and good humour in equal measure. What it lacks in variety, it makes up for in-game design and I was sad that the game was over as the credits rolled after around ten hours. There are a number of reasons to return, with collectables, side missions, and shakedowns to complete. Personally, I think it is screaming out for some additional DLC, and would love to see Vblank Entertainment provide it.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, PlayStation
Release Date: 07/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action, Arcade
Publisher: Vblank Entertainment
Download link: eShop