Slick has kidnapped Ryan’s girlfriend and taken over River City High. Not only that, but he’s rallied together some of the toughest gangs in the city and sent them all after him. Now it’s up to Ryan and his best friend, Alex, to pummel their way through waves of bad guys and put Slick in his place.
Time to punch guys until they turn into coins!
River City Ransom is your not-so-typical beat ‘em up, which features multiple inter-connected areas, stat-boosting food, skill-granting books, and a whole lot of fun. You start off at the gates to Cross Town High and must traverse the city to reach River City High. Along the way, you’ll face off against gangs, such as The Cowboys, in various environments using the weapons laying about. There really isn’t much else to the game, but that simplicity really adds to the overall fun and charm of the game.
Gameplay breaks down pretty easily, with one button for punch and another for kick. When both are pressed simultaneously, it makes your character jump. Pressing punch near a weapon will pick it up and subsequent presses toss it. By hitting kick, instead, you’ll chuck the weapon. Inside each of the shopping areas, which serve as safe zones, you can purchase food to help raise stats and regain health or books that will grant special skills like Dragon Kick or Acro Circus. Some of these skills are more useful than others, but most of it depends on your playstyle.
If the going gets too tough, you can grab a friend to help bring the pain. Cooperative play works quite smoothly and there are two types available. One allows for both players to be able to damage each other while the second option does not. The screen will try to keep the action centered, meaning that it won’t scroll unless both characters are going the same direction. Also, both characters will need to exit the area for the game to proceed to the next point. These features are nice and make for a great two player experience, provided you stick together.
Graphically, the games aesthetics get the job done, giving a rather cartoonish feel to the the city and it’s inhabitants. This cartoon-like feel is only heightened when characters eat their meals whole, plate and all, and dispense witty retorts as you pummel them into submission.
The music in the game, while limited, is as fun as it is catchy, and that is a good thing as you’ll be hearing all of these tracks over and over again. The main theme from the game, as well as the boss theme, are easily two of my favorite tracks from a videogame.
While the game is fun, it takes quite some time to complete since you’ll need to get a lot of cash for enough food to get your stats up, as well as have enough for some of the better skills. To help with this, the game features one of the most convoluted password systems ever, and if you get so much as one letter wrong… well, have fun starting over. Copying down these passwords was hell, and the fact that games that proceeded had save systems made it seem all the more frustrating. Once you complete the game, that’s it, game over, so unless you really feel like starting over, you might not find much reason to play again.
River City Ransom is a great little game and one that, despite it’s repetitive play, I can’t stop playing. There have been numerous versions, a remake, and even an MMO, but I somehow always come back to the original. If you enjoy punching people until they barf, then this is the game for you.
GO Rating: 4.5/5