Rampage World Tour

The PSX/N64 era was just utterly rife with remakes of 80s arcade classics. There were a lot of reasons for this, I’m sure, and I’m also sure part of it was just a cold, hard, simple fact- making completely original games in the then-new realm of 3D console games was difficult, challenging, and expensive. At least, in comparison to tightening up the graphics on a 13-year-old arcade classic. The division of quality between them, however, has usually been pretty noticeable- Asteroids was pretty eh, but Gauntlet Legends was a solid reinvention of the franchise, and Robotron wasn’t a reinvention but managed to make its core gameplay even more compelling. Where would Rampage end up?

rampagearcadescreenYou may know it as “that game where you are a monster and break buildings.”

Rampage, for those who missed it, was a very simple quarter muncher of an arcade game. The premise was simple- you’re a big monster, and you have to punch apart cities across the nation for no real reason other than because you’re a monster and an asshole. It worked in the arcade because it was so instantly accessible- but I’d argue that’s also the game’s biggest downfall. It’s fun for a while to punch things, but there’s very little in terms of actual skill that one can play Rampage with. There’s even less in terms of variety. It’s not like most games of the era where you could expect to see wizards of the arcade keep a score going for hours, as your fairly long health bar is constantly depleted by generally difficult-to-impossible to avoid tiny bullets and other similar projectiles. No matter how many hamburgers you find in punched-out windows, you’re eventually going to die sooner than later. And not just because of a diet-caused heart attack.  Thus, the game is more or less designed to milk the player of quarters for as long as they don’t get bored or broke. It’s basically like a slot machine except that you can only lose.

rmapage5And it’s still that game where you are a monster and break buildings.

Okay, for sake of full disclosure, I’ve played this before. I’ve also beaten it before, as well as the NES version of this same game. However, it’s been nearly since the release of World Tour since I’ve played either one of them. This may be due to the fact that the NES version takes roughly 6-10 grueling hours to completely finish, and of course there’s no password or save system to quickly get back to wherever you were in the 120-odd levels that each take ~3-5 minutes to beat. All in one very repetitive sitting, or maybe a couple if your parents were cool enough to let you leave the Nintendo on overnight. I was lucky enough to be in the latter category, in this case. But if you ever meet anyone in the former category, please shake their hand and compliment their patience and dedication. They’re probably world-class paragons of both qualities. In any case, I think it’s been long enough that I think I can give this game the objective fair shake that even the worst games deserve.

nakedtime2It’s also still that game where your character shrinks and becomes a naked human once again when their 
health finally runs out. Though this doesn’t seem to discourage that cop from continuing to attempt to perforate you.

Now, if you weren’t around for gaming in the late 16 bit or especially the early 32/64 bit generation, you probably missed the era of Donkey Kong Country turning the game aesthetics paradigm on its head. DKC made it cool to forgo the complex 2D sprites seen in games previously, sprites which require a human being to individually draw and perfect each frame.  Instead, you just had to make a relatively basic 3D model, give it some kind of sensical skeleton, and then animate it however you want it. The individual frames of that animation could then (more or less) instantly be made into usable pre-rendered 2D sprites, and if you ever needed to adjust it or make a brand new animation… well, simple as animating it, exporting it, and converting it. It may sound stupid now, but this was an inescapable and mostly exciting revolution at the time; after all, it theoretically saved on labor while also looking like THE FUTURE. Some of these games still manage to still look okay- the aforementioned Donkey Kong Country series being a prime example, but Starcraft also did a fantastic job of stylizing its art just enough that it manages to not seem totally dated and embarrassing today. Non-dated and not-embarrassing are not words I’d usually use to describe most pre-rendered graphics of the era, though… especially when breasts were involved.  Rampage World Tour has both pre-rendered graphics AND breasts, so I’m already not expecting a pleasant return.

scoreYou’ll be seeing this screen a lot, so try not to play this game around your Mom.

From the start, you get your pick of three characters- all of which are more or less identical, with the primary differences being what kind of food they like and which ones make them literally throw up. Other than that, the two dudes and the one lady (who was also in the arcade version, which was arguably a progressive move for the time) are all functionally identical as in the original arcade game. They are now just cartoonishly illustrated via the magic of computer graphics instead of by hand. The gameplay differences between the two aren’t super dramatic, either- it’s still a game about you being a big creature that destroys buildings and either eats or kills anything that’s trying to stop it, and that’s about it. This time, you get to do so  for a few stages somewhere besides a city in America every once in a while.  Neat.

cernyAnd sometimes you get to be a flying creature-beast-monster that tears through everything as
if it was a jackhammer through pastry dough. This is actually pretty rad.

That’s not to say this is just the same game with a plastic-y looking coat of pre-rendered CGI pasted over the original; at least, if you’re playing it right. Although you’re still going to be dying a lot because there’s still almost no way to not get constantly hurt, you can at least clear the stages faster through either kicking (takes out a whole floor) or by climbing to the top of a building and down-punching the roof until the whole thing collapses. The tradeoff is that you’ll likely miss out on items, but the time they take to collect is rarely worth the unavoidable damage you’ll likely suffer in the process.

topbuildThis Greasy Spoon is apparently so popular that it has 4 floors.
I shudder to think of how many chicken-fried steaks had to perish in this terrible building collapse.

In the cases where it is worthwhile to collect items despite being shot at by two helicopters and a tank, it’s usually because you found an American flag. Punching these doesn’t cause an eagle to materialize and decapitate you due to your desecration of America’s most frequently burned textile, believe it or not- it actually just deports you, kinda sorta. If you haven’t already guessed, this is where the “World Tour” part comes in. What this means in  practice is that you’ll go to a bonus stage, then destroy a few cities located in whatever country whose flag appeared after you literally punched America in the face. In at least one of those stages, there will be a famous landmark to provide location reference material before you punch it apart and eat all of the tourists inside. Landmarks aside, it’s pretty much the same as any normal American level, except that you’re more likely to see a sign that reads “YOUTH HOSTEL”.

squirt Like this gorgeous Spanish youth hostel, next to this hacienda whose toilets apparently
have such incredible water pressure that they can knock a 30 foot tall man-beast off a building.

This is kind of a running theme in Rampage, and a known problem from the original- there is just almost no variety at any time ever. Level one is like level three is like level one hundred four. All the changes is that you’re more likely to take even more unavoidable damage as you progress. Repetition was the biggest criticism of Rampage in 198X, it was still the biggest one in 199X, and somehow nothing has changed in 201X.

smokey
See all those X’s and dots? You have to X out all of them, which are spread about
10-15 levels apart. If you can tolerate  the repetition long enough to clear
all of them, you likely have a promising future in assembly line work.

But it’s even more glaring now- the rise of 2-3 hour long games that exist merely as a vessel to explore a semi-unique core mechanic until the moment that it starts to wear out its welcome (such Portal, or most of the 214,392 commercially-released ‘indie’ platforming games since whenever Braid came out) really makes it hard to want to sink 20-30 hours into finishing this one.  Imagine if Portal never had any challenges more difficult than the first six or so, and also that the game was ten times as long. I have a feeling that it might not be as highly regarded.

I really didn’t expect to be as let down by this one as I was. Even when I tried playing it co-op, I discovered that the game just is not fun anymore for any extended length of time. There’s similar, better games that we can play now, especially if you’re flying solo.

Cache It or Thrash It?
Cache it into your game stash if you’re gaga for repetitive smashing action, because that’s about all you’re going to find here.
Thrash it with punches until one of you breaks if you’ve got more variety-packed time suckers to play.

This World Tour wasn’t a Farewell Tour for Rampage,  as it spawned a sequel on the same console.
Here’s hoping for a little less of the same.

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