This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all games, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
Shakedown: Hawaii is a top-down, open-world, action game in the vain of old-school GTA titles like GTA 2. Having completed most of the content available to me, it is safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game and can easily recommend it to most people.
That is because at its core, Shakedown: Hawaii does not mess with a really solid formula; open-world crime games have been around for a long time and Shakedown: Hawaii (pardon the pun) is not looking to shake things around. Some cars are fast and desirable, some others are slow and sturdy, while some guns pack a punch but are harder to find ammo for, and others are not as strong but you can find hundreds of bullets for them. While this may sound like something you’ve played before, I actually haven’t played a top-down version of this in some years, and enjoyed my time with the game using the mechanics and controls to wreak havoc for my own enjoyment.
However, while Shakedown: Hawaii doesn’t revolutionize the genre, it certainly provides a fresh spin on it; you play a grumpy, old, business mogul, whose company is on a downfall and needs to step back in and guide it to the top once again. And by guide, I mean doing everything illegal you can to bully or force the competition to submit their business to you. This premise allows the game to be a cartoonishly, absurd, satire of modern business trends and institutions (that is surprisingly funny and light-hearted) and actually has some interesting ideas for missions; it’s a shame those missions don’t force you to use the mechanics in any interesting ways and are often really easy to cheese your way through. These missions can involve anything from sabotaging your rival’s hotels to assuming control of your ‘gun-for-hire’ and taking out opposition overseas, but their real highlight is the writing and how it satirizes and jokes with business of all industries and with inherently, silly ideas (like having a brick phone that also has a touch screen). Sometimes, they also surprise with mini-games and those were surprisingly fun as well. Beyond that, Shakedown is a great looking game with fun characters and a great soundtrack, that is simply fun to cause havoc in.
The standout feature though, is the one in the title: Shakedowns, are these great mini-game types of missions, that have you extorting business owners for protection money. There are over 80 in the game, and while not all unique, they have great variety and never lost their charm. Furthermore, you can also buy these properties (along with every other property on the island), in a light business-sim styled meta-game, that is – once again – surprisingly addictive. You can purchase multipliers (that are scammy advertising and legislative efforts, like gift cards and bribing officials to pass laws that benefit you) for every property, so you can double the money you make from owning houses by allowing them to purchase gift cards for those houses!
As you’ve probably guessed, I think this game is GREAT; it’s a simple premise and didn’t expect much, but because of their core mechanics being so sound, their writing and charm being so fun and endearing, as well as providing a fresh take with novel new ideas to such a seasoned genre, Shakedown: Hawaii managed to impress me quite a bit. I appreciate the fact that, while the map isn’t massive, it is fun to be in, can be entirely bought out, and I never got tired of playing it – which means that they curated their game and knew how much to allow the player to have, before getting tired of it and souring that experience for themselves. It also makes the variety and polish of the whole thing even more impressive. I don’t think you can go wring with this game, it can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the genre and will not overstay its welcome like a lot of games in this genre.