Shakedown Hawaii Review: A Repetitive Biz Trip
How does it feel to run a company on the brink of bankruptcy? In Shakedown Hawaii, you'll find out. Getting your hands dirty to keep cash rolling in and scaring shopkeepers in exchange for protection is all part of the plan.
Developed by Vblank Entertainment, the studio behind Retro City Rampage, Shakedown Hawaii is a new project that follows a similar foundation. The game puts you in the starring role of a messy situation surrounded by dubious characters.
Wrapped in a 16-bit aesthetic with an all-around arcade feel, Shakedown Hawaii is a story about "business" and current trends such as virtual reality, energy drinks, and video games.
Shakedown Hawaii starts on an interesting foot, showcasing a CEO tangled in far too many financial problems. In the midst of the chaos engulfing his businesses, he starts to look for new ways to earn money fast. All of them are, of course, shady at best.
During the game's first few hours, following the main path unlocks more and more things to do. You gain access to new shops that let you customize your pixelated avatar (with great results, by the way!), and you acquire new properties that generate more cash. This includes businesses and smaller shops that you attack in various ways until the owners give up and accept your “protection." The more you obtain and takeover, the bigger your daily paycheck.
Shakedown Hawaii's story is really fast-paced, and it can sometimes be a bit annoying. I suppose it tries to resemble the stories found in games from the arcade era, for better or worse. However, this micro open-world offers side activities that are fun to find and complete, such as the game's scored challenges.
Missions are often short and easy to complete as well. Whenever you finish one, you’ll usually get a phone call with a new hint or business opportunity. A few seconds later, a new marker will appear on your map, and off you go again.
It’s easy to get stuck in this loop, and the game doesn't stop you either. In a few missions, you'll be introduced to a new type of shop or property to acquire. Even when I didn't have enough money to do so, it let me progress either way. Although I ended up taking a few moments away from the main story to explore and get more shops on my own, it got repetitive fast.
Running around shooting is as fun as ever. Weapons that can be either bought or looted from the ground, and there's a significant variety, from scissors and baseball bats to machine guns or a flamethrower.
As in its predecessor, you can also stomp on folks’ heads for a critical hit in Shakedown Hawaii. Cars can be hijacked immediately, and there’s even a Grand-Theft-Auto-style use of garages to change vehicle paint and lose your current heat from the police.
Killing pedestrians, making things go boom and causing general havoc increases your score. As far as I could tell, however, doing so provides zero in-game incentive; there are no bonuses associated with doing any of these things.
It would have been interesting to see this intertwining with unlockables, for example. But there isn’t much to it, sadly.
If you fancy a short session, you can opt to play the arcade challenges right from the main menu, and there’s a free-roaming mode as well. In Retro City Rampage fashion, there is a number of options to customize the visual style of the game. I don’t tend to mess around with them too much, but using the TV filter when playing on my Nintendo Switch docked was a nice touch.
- Promising premise
- Gorgeous visuals
- Challenges maintain that retro feel intact
- Pacing feels rushed at times
- It gets repetitive fast
- There's not much to do or see
Shakedown Hawaii lives under the shadow of Retro City Rampage, and while it tries to do its own thing, the dozens of references and thematic missions are missed more often than not. The main story leads to some repetitive places, and overall, it's an experience that's fine for short sessions every now and then, but I wouldn't recommend spending more than a few consecutive hours in its world.
You can still find retro pop culture references every now and then, but the humor surrounding missions is more grounded here. Everything in the game is set around businesses, even if it's packed with absurdity. And when missions are pretty much the core of the game, it shows. At times, I missed that Retro City Rampage premise dearly, and I didn't find enough motive to get fully invested in this 16-bit world.
[Note: A copy of Shakedown Hawaii was provided by Vblank Entertainment for the purpose of this review.]