While there are a number of big-budget games out there that we're immensely excited about, there are also certain efforts by the "little guys" in the independent game development scene that are worth some attention as well. Among these games is one that's been in development for well over a couple of years: Retro City Rampage. It's a game that, like the best "sandbox" games out there, lets you trash what you want, do what you want, and then try and escape the punishment within the confines of an engine you'd find in a classic game console. In other words, it's Grand Theft Auto meets the Nintendo Entertainment System... and we're perfectly fine with that.


In the game, you're a henchman working for a crime syndicate simply known as the Jester. You don't really have the same sort of revenge motive as the main characters from Grand Theft Auto games do, you just like to complete missions and earn some notoriety in the process. With Retro City Rampage, you have everything varying from car thefts to "wiping out" gangs to pulling off more elaborate heists.


With Retro City Rampage, the tempo of the mission can change at the drop of a hat. One minute you're driving a school bus and the next you're blowing up everything in sight, running loose like an assassin on crack. On top of that, the game also features a ton of retro references through various missions. You'll find yourself facing off against a gigantic gorilla in a nod to Donkey Kong. Another pays homage to Twisted Pixel's 'Splosion Man game, recreating the explosive atmosphere for the 8-bit age. (Stages based on Super Meat Boy and Bit.Trip Runner are also thrown in for good measure.)


There are literally hundreds of references you'll find throughout Retro City Rampage that pay tribute to the classic days of gaming. You'll find a weapon pick-up that's similar to the original Legend of Zelda hidden room discoveries, several nods to the firepower of the Contra games, and even Super Mario Bros. and Frogger references. The game isn't limited to just old-school references: during one point of the game you'll even find a scene similar to one of the action stages in The Dark Knight. We won't spoil it here, just keep your eyes open.


Even though it's based in an 8-bit world, Retro City Rampage comes with hours of gameplay between regular and bonus missions along with the option to just go nuts and wipe out certain folks to make a few extra bucks. Finding the bonus content really prolongs the replay value as well, including going on rampages. The game's Arcade mode is built especially for that, allowing you to simply take the restraints off and go "willy nilly" for the sake of a high score.


VBlank Entertainment, the development team behind this exhaustive effort, have really done a number with Retro City Rampage's engine. It definitely looks like something taken out of the NES days, using an overhead perspective similar to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game in its exploration sequences. The city has miles' worth of territory to explore and a few peculiarity named buildings that you can run past. The game moves smoothly even when you're firing a rocket launcher all over the place and the old-school way cars roll down the streets is a cool sight.


Not content to just have old-school graphics, VBlank Entertainment also brought in a trio of composers to put together some enjoyable "chip tunes" (from the NES days) for the soundtrack. Leonard "FreakyDNA" Paul, Jake "Virt" Kaufman (who also worked on the recently released Double Dragon Neon – 80's soundtrack for the win!) and Matt "Norrin Radd" each contribute a number of tracks to the game. They're fun to listen to, even with all the other sound effects occurring throughout the game.


Retro City Rampage tops it all off with great old-school gameplay. You don't need to worry about a precise aiming system for using your weapon or car; just use the analog stick (or D-pad) and run like mad. Some of the missions are more challenging than others but we guarantee you'll have fun getting through them the best way you know how – with crazy violence!


Now the only thing standing in the way of our playing through Retro City Rampage is a release date. The game is slated for a 2012 release but VBlank Entertainment isn't ready to reveal a final date just yet. It will release across the board for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network (through both PS3 and PS Vita, through Cross-Buy), WiiWare (!) and Steam, so you have no excuse when it comes to downloading and playing it.


Be sure to check back on info of a release date soon. In the meantime…you got a rocket launcher handy?