A first look at Shakedown Hawaii

Game: Shakedown Hawaii
Developer: VBlank Entertainment
Game provided by developer: Yes

I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to play VBlank Entertainment’s upcoming 16-bit open world action game Shakedown Hawaii. Please note that everything I mention in this article is based around the current beta build and is subject to change as VBlank take all feedback from beta testers onboard before the final release.

Live streaming?  Whats that?

Boasting a sharp and smooth 16-bit style and a nostalgia-driven soundtrack, Shakedown Hawaii not only held my attention for several hours, but grabbed it and never let go as I set about re-building my once thriving business, through legitimate means or otherwise.

As I was introduced to the main character; a caricature of an 80’s CEO who has his fingers in every delicious moneymaking pie possible. With money in everything from video rental services to taxi companies combined with a stubborn hands-off approach and an ever-modernizing world I was at a loss for words as to how a once bustling business could succumb to the rapidly growing streaming market.

Instantly, as I took my first steps as the aging business magnate turned best-selling author of My Company Runs Itself: I’m at the Beach I felt right at home in a top-down world reminiscent of the Grand Theft Auto titles of yonder. If you have played VBlank Entertainment’s Retro City Rampage you will know exactly how to navigate the world and general character control mechanics and gunplay.

The Hawaii setting is not immediately noticeable however the world is gorgeous and full of life as NPC’s self-absorbingly take selfies in the middle of the street or gangs corner the dank back-alleys and threaten the everyday citizen. Combined with a fantastic soundtrack and incredibly detailed cutscenes, I was utterly sucked in to the game.

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I found myself hijacking vehicles and cruising around Hawaii in anything from a school bus to a monster truck. Each vehicle handles differently and seemingly have their own audio cues; when I was driving a hot rod, I was driving that hot rod. Meanwhile the monster truck plows through everything in its path – blowing up every vehicle it touches.

I was able to run around the open world utilizing a plethora of fun weapons, mowing down NPC’s and fighting back against the establishment!  Trust me, blowing away civilians with a portable water cannon or scorching the land with a trusty flamethrower and renovating Hawaii to look more like a scene from an Zombieland than a lovely, sunny island. I never had a problem finding weapons or ammunition, and if I ever did I know there is always the subtly named gun shops to fall back on. I found myself giggling like a kid as I ran around wreaking havoc with a pair of salon scissors, terrorizing the citizens of Hawaii one haircut at a time.

Speaking of shops, Shakedown Hawaii has a nice collection of customization options with the ability to shop for a disguise as I went about my extremely legal business.

The meat and potatoes

In my four hours of beta gameplay I was gunning down the Mexican Cartel to liberate farms… not out the good of my heart of course – with the sole purpose of stealing the deeds to the farm and selling it back to the original owners.  If that isn’t raw, unadulterated capitalism I don’t know what is. I was taxiing the employees of my car repo venture to a TV studio with the sole aim of creating a commercial for my newly branded gaming cola and even playing as Mr. totally legal business owner’s son, DJ. Jockitch as I attempted to leverage my street cred to save a fledgling music career.

The sheer variety of missions I was playing kept the game fresh as Shakedown Hawaii constantly introduced a stream of new characters, locations, weapons and mission types all tied together under an unbelievably ridiculous story. Although I enjoyed most missions, some were extremely short and a few consisted only of driving to one location or driving a NPC to another set location.  These serve to advance the story and I can see why they are included, but the constant cutscenes after each short mission, to open up new missions felt jarring at times and halted the flow of the game, even though it was only for a little while.

Throughout my playtime I was taking part in mini-game challenges which can all be replayed from within the open world or directly on the main menu.  These serve as a fun distraction and offer rewards to boot.

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So, the game is called Shakedown Hawaii and is set in Hawaii, so where is the shaking down? Boasting over 80 different commercial locations, I was able to threaten the owners of small businesses in to paying protection money, thus increasing my daily revenue, helping me to keep my business afloat. These businesses can then be purchased, who knew it was this easy to make money? Try cornering the retail market and see what happens.

This brings us to our next mechanic; an entire simulation meta-game resides within this tongue-in-cheek game world. Not only was I running riot disguised in a overcompensating purple top hat with gold-trimmed glasses complete with handlebar moustache, I was buying up smaller businesses and raking in the cash.  It’s what a good CEO would do. Trust me. VBlank have even been so kind as to include a handy menu from where to manage your growing business portfolio.

Equipped with nothing but fear of losing your fortune, a destructive RPG and a pair of scissors while embracing a sense of humour that will slap you in the face with cultural references and modern marketing tropes – buy property, shakedown stores, repossess cars and watch your company be saved from the bring of bankruptcy in Shakedown Hawaii!

Shakedown Hawaii is set to release on the Epic Games Store, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS VITA and 3DS in the near future.

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