"Any area starts with a timer that ticks down toward monster Armageddon, and you have to destroy every building before that happens or else planes will come through dropping bombs that cut short your adventure. You can pick up clocks to delay the blessed event, but really the most effective technique is to just work fast at the wanton destruction. Otherwise, it doesn’t take long to plow through your reserves on a particularly large city."
There’s something tremendously satisfying about climbing up the side of a building, punching out its windows, eating its residents, then leaping away as it collapses into a pile of rubble in the chaos-ridden streets below. Sure, there are those pesky electrical outlets, and the military does send out bombers to cut short my reign of terror. However, such hazards are only a mild inconvenience. They may kill me, but I will rise again! A few button presses and I’m good as new.
The game is Rampage 2: Universal Tour, and it’s Midway’s second attempt to revitalize the Rampage series on the Nintendo 64. Back in the 80s, the original game challenged players to stomp, punch, climb and crawl their way across a rather uniform depiction of the United States, wreaking as much havoc as possible before they ran out of lives and quarters. The new edition is more of the same but with a much shinier coat of paint, better controls, a more frantic pace, and a password system so you can save your progress as you visit something like 100 different locations. None of this drastically changes the concept behind the game, which is as things should be. Just know that the improvements on this cartridge aren’t likely to change your mind if you hated the original.
The original Rampage featured buildings that looked rather similar to milk cartons lined up along a lunch tray at the cafeteria. A fitting comparison, as that’s basically what they were to the monsters players controlled. However, that’s changed for the new generation. Punch a hole in a concrete beam and it no longer looks like a container sprung a leak. You’ll see chipped off bits of rubble and sometimes special goodies lurking inside. These often take the form of rather silly objects. Live humans, salads, hotdogs, pizza and the like are going to boost your health gauge, while televisions, washing machines and other such hazards will give you a nasty jolt that does just the opposite. Except for the humans (who move around the jeopardized buildings like ants swarming from their hill), these items are presented as static icons amidst the shattered remains of uniformity that you’ve demolished. You have only a split-second to decide if you want to gobble down the treasure you’ve unearthed, or leave it behind.
I haven’t played the original a whole lot, so I can’t say very accurately what sort of constraints the game put on your time. I usually breeze through those stages rather quickly, then die the minute the game cranks up the heat. What I do know is that Rampage 2: Universal Tour wants to keep things frantic. Any area starts with a timer that ticks down toward monster Armageddon, and you have to destroy every building before that happens or else planes will come through dropping bombs that cut short your adventure. You can pick up clocks to delay the blessed event, but really the most effective technique is to just work fast at the wanton destruction. Otherwise, it doesn’t take long to plow through your reserves on a particularly large city.
Speaking again of destroying buildings, not all of them fall swiftly. Some are tall and thin, and you’ll have to climb multiple levels, punching and kicking like crazy. Others are shorter but wider, so you have to attack from both sides to remove enough of the foundation that they’ll collapse. Still others are short and look a little bit like banks or perhaps miniature versions of the White House. These fall swiftly if you give them a good stomp.
Regardless of the monster you’ve chosen for the job (there are three initially available, plus the original three mascots if you make it far enough in the adventure), you’ll find that you have the same basic moves available. You can grab window ledges and use them for support while you kick at buildings from the side, or you can punch them. You can climb to the top and stomp until things crumble, too. Finally, each of your character is better at one sort of thing (climbing, for example) than he is at another (like punching).
Besides those generic moves, you also have special attacks at your disposal. These can be used only when you’ve filled the appropriate gauge, which is accomplished when you eat enough civilians or grab plenty of icons. Some icons instantly fill your meter, though they come along rather infrequently. The minute you decide to hit the ‘special attack’ button, you’ll launch into a whirlwind of flying fists and feet that spells disaster for even the sturdiest of structures. Since it only lasts for a few seconds, and because you have to do the most damage possible at all times in later areas, you’ll likely find yourself saving the move for those crunch times when you’ve just seen bombers fly overhead and you know their about to return with plenty of heavy ammunition.
There’s not a one of the game elements I’ve described above that makes Rampage 2: Universal Tour the great play it is, though. Rather, it’s the sum of the parts. Early on, you might well get tired of breaking down buildings and either gobbling up the residents or watching them plummet to their doom. Even the infrequent ‘bonus’ rounds (lackluster events that require you to destroy buildings quickly or to see how far you can jump) don’t do much to break up what is at its core one of the most repetitious games on the market. When I first played, I made it a few rounds in and died all my lives. I thought to myself “Hmm, that wasn’t such a great game.” But I had time before my next class, so I played again. And again. I started doing better and better, and then I found myself disgusted because I had to turn off the unit and run like blazes just to get to class in time.
The game has that sort of effect on a person. You play it at first just to try it out, then you’re sure that if you play just one more game, you can do better. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of casual gamers. My wife played little else for weeks on end once I introduced her to it, and the multi-player mode enabled me to enjoy lots of games with friends at college. It’s even more fun leveling entire cities when you can stop partway through to punch your comrade from behind, then grin as he falls into the water or into the path of an approaching tank. Up to three people can play at once, which makes for some great gaming sessions if everyone just wants to get together over a few drinks from the fridge.
Eventually, like any game, Rampage 2: Universal Tour will wear out its welcome. You’ll be sick of playing it and you’ll remember again that it’s shallow, that the visuals aren’t so stunning as the system surely could have managed, and that there aren’t a lot of people around who will still agree to play it with you. But that’s after you’ve had hours upon hours of fun, after the cartridge has paid for itself a few times over. No, it’s not a classic. But you do get to destroy buildings and even swallow an Elvis impersonator in one stage. That alone is worth the price of admittance.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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