Back in 2017, I had the pleasure of reviewing VBLANK’s ever popular Retro City Rampage DX on the Nintendo Switch. At this time, it had seen many releases, but it was still new to me. In my review, I described it as “top-down but over-the-top”, and that still rings true in the game’s successor Shakedown: Hawaii. A change of scenery and graphical overhaul make this game look noticeably different, but just as inviting. As an aging CEO in an ever changing market, you must adapt or face financial defeat. Your retail stores are getting hammered by online retailers, your VHS rental shops are way out of date, and your taxi service is no competition of ride sharing companies. So, do you have the gusto to hit the streets and make some changes? Sure you do, you are the CEO of Feeble Multinational!
In Shakedown: Hawaii, one of the islands of Hawaii is your playground, and also your potential business empire. You thought your business could run itself while you stayed home, aging, going through a divorce, and raising your irresponsible son, Scooter. But upon the revelation that the business was on the verge of tanking and being acquired by Featherbottom, the island’s seemingly most prominent and exquisite entrepreneur, our fateful CEO hikes up his tube socks, fastens his shorts, and dusts off the blazer as he works the streets, looking to revamp his ventures. Across 111 missions (yeah, you read that right) your story back to glory will unfold, and along the way you can acquire up to 415 properties that are home to a variety of businesses to keep the cash flow going.
These businesses, and their acquisition across a hearty 10 hour long campaign, are the main attraction to Shakedown: Hawaii. Like GTAV and several of the Saint’s Row games, owning businesses is a big part of how you earn funds to keep growing your empire. In this title, much of the fun in owning these is how a big chunk of the properties become available to purchase in the first place, which happens through shakedowns. Whether you flood a few toilets or crack a few skulls, you need potential pieces of your empire to “open the doors” to the prospect of selling to you, and them paying protection money is a good start. Some of these shakedowns result in these huge, fun shootouts with gangs that are currently receiving protection money, while others have you face the store employee one on one in a mini-boss fight of sorts. Earning this protection money will help you save up for purchasing businesses outright, in turn growing your control of the island.
Each owned business or property gets you a certain amount of take home at the end of each day, so expanding is a chain effect that keeps the money piling up. To further advance that, you can use a variety of multipliers to increase the amount of intake you get from a certain business. These can be pricey early on, when $20,000 is hard to get, but these multipliers can give you up to seven times the income on a property, and can all effectively stack! So whether you start selling gift cards at a location, or ad online marketing, or even fork out the cash to start a pyramid scheme (which gives you that max 7x multiplier), investing in these strategies at locations that are natural cash cows will give you the big bucks. While I really like this feature, I wish it was implemented in a smarter way. I wish certain businesses could only use fitting multipliers, because it was easy for me to abuse the system early on, and honestly I think it made the game too easy in the long run because probably after 35% completion, I do not think I ever struggled for money or had to go do side activities to get extra cash because I was already making way more than I needed. What I mean by this is that I should not be able to take advantage of a “fuel surcharge” multiplier at an apartment complex, and maybe that one should be limited to my taxis and my airport. There are ways this could have been improved, and maybe everyone will not see it that way, but for taking this semi-business sim approach, I think a couple smarter angles at the gameplay would have made for a richer experience.
Regardless, I love this newer feature, but the rest of the time when you are not managing, you will be living it up driving and running about the city having a grand ol’ time. The gameplay is killer, and for me, especially so in the driving department. Driving is so smooth and fun that I rarely used the great subway feature that lets you quickly travel across the island. Another cool feature was the ability to save cars in your homes garage. The shooting is great, the cover system is finicky sometimes but works well otherwise, and the variety of weapons is great as always. The laugh heavy weapons are the literal pair of hair cutting scissors that can, well, cut hair. There is also a water gun and a hair dryer, which can be used for some good old fashioned vandalism.
The story, while less pop culture heavy like RCR DX before it, is packed to the brim with humor. Shakedown focuses a lot more on current world realities, like the aforementioned ride sharing, the integration of superfoods in the market, subscription based “ownership”, and much much more about the devious ways of capitalism. It is an absolute riot, and there is not much downtime between laughs. The game is well written and keeps the punchlines coming. The story can get a bit repetitive at times, but has sparks of variety from allowing you to play three different characters like GTAV before it. Most of your time you well play as the CEO, while also changing to both Scooter, who will do sketchy favors in exchange for not owing rent or getting a job, as well as Al, your Latin mercenary who takes out cartel owned farms so you can start selling the produce. Al is an awesome go-to right hand man, he gets his orders, and gets the job done, no questions asked. His segments are often heavily actioned based, with a lot of gunplay taking place. Scooter does odds and ends, often destroying something or causing a ruckus to allow his father to swoop in a buy a location.
There are a lot of interjections of random gameplay which I found fun too, like making business templates on your tablet, structuring a rehab plan, refilling your own ink cartridges, and even working out. These little breaks just add to the massive character the game has as an entire entity. The characters you meet are well designed and have great writing behind them to back up their design. As a whole, the world just feels great. I wish there were more in the way of collectibles, outside the 30 charging cords scattered across the city, because it just feels like this type of game deserves them.
As a whole, I enjoyed Shakedown a ton. It’s simple enough to pick up and play, and its story does enough to keep the player pushing forward. Each time you head towards a new mission it feels like a constant continuation of the prior one. The 16bit style is gorgeous and colorful, still packing plenty of detail in its retro styled goodness. The music gets the job done and is often catchy, making the smooth driving even more engaging. With balance based update already having gone through since release, the game is in a very good position to sit right with a large audience. Fans of RCR DX, GTA, and those just looking for a good open world to have a blast in, look no further. You just found your next vacation destination. It is time to get to work.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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