I was born in the year 2000, so it’s fair to say retro gaming for me truly is retro. I never experienced the classic arcade games as they were meant to be played, and the beat ‘em ups I grew up with looked quite different from the 90s-inspired Breakneck City. Nevertheless, I was excited to dive into this world of low poly textures and synth music and experience a slice of a time period I was never in.
Breakneck City certainly delivers on that front, it practically oozes old school vibes with chunky graphics and a real retro aesthetic. You play as Sidney Flintlock or Justine Jacobs fighting across six levels on a quest to save their favourite video game store from gangsters hellbent on burning it down. The story is basically meaningless, but to be honest, I didn’t expect anything less. Where the story lacks, the atmosphere succeeds. You traverse across a variety of city backdrops fighting hordes of enemies and facing off bosses. The setting is a perfect background for a retro beat ‘em up, but sadly, here is where the perfection ends.
I came into Breakneck City prepared to give it as much credit as possible with an understanding that its limitations would be inspired by the genre. However, even with that in mind, I found the gameplay difficult to enjoy. The combat is just awkward and clunky. I often found myself punching and kicking in entirely the wrong direction, and at one stage, I died more times to sprinting off the map than I did to an actual enemy. Breakneck City does have a bit of a saving grace with some interesting environmental interactions. You can kick people down flights of stairs, push them over railings and interact with creative objects to defeat your enemies. It’s just about enough to keep what is a very short game entertaining.
However, where Breakneck City really fails, in my opinion, are the bosses. They simply weren’t that challenging, and it never felt like there was much of a strategy to defeating them. With boss fights often being some of the highlights of these games, it was disappointing to find most could be killed with spamming punch and throwing in the odd dodge here and there.
When analysing a game such as this, it can be hard to be truly fair in my judgement. Maybe for some people, Breakneck City will really hit that nostalgic nerve and give them an enjoyable 90s-inspired couple of hours. However, personally, as the Instagram-loving generation zoomer I am, there just wasn’t enough here to keep me interested. No part of Breakneck City is awful or poorly put together, it’s just quite simply not that much fun to play. Then again, I accept that I’m not exactly the target audience, and maybe buried under the clunky-ness there’s something that people will enjoy.
Developers: Renegade Sector Games, EastAsiaSoft
Publishers: Renegade Sector Games, EastAsiaSoft
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 27th May 2020