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Rampage (NES) artwork

Rampage (NES) review

"It's understood that many arcade games are repetitive, but most of them packed on the challenge and changed up what variables they could to make each level at least feel different. Such tiny changes keep a game from going stale. Rampage does neither, and suffers for it."

The art of metropolitan destruction is something videogames are only now mastering. Data East was among the early companies to try their hand at it with the somewhat revered classic Rampage. They thought they couldn't go wrong with a little cathartic destruction through wrecking major US cities and crushing the military. Plus, the notion that you played the enemy was a fresh and exciting idea at the time. Rather than playing muscle-bound, gun-toting badasses, you devoured them. But after a few levels, you begin to realize that the premise wears thin.

You guide one of three giant monsters--Ralph the wolf, George the gorilla, or Lizzie the lizard--in leveling cities and eating humans to exact revenge on the society that turned them into abominations. When Rampage hit NES, Data East excised Ralph, leaving only two monsters to choose from. This didn't matter much, since all of the creatures play precisely the same.

Your objective is simple: climb and punch holes in every building until all of them crumble. Once that's done, you move on to the next city and begin the process anew. The local authorities and military provide some resistance, but are easily dispatched by either punching their vehicles or popping them into your mouth for quick snack. That also goes for any screaming business men, bathing babes, and damsels in distress. No one is safe from a horrible crushing death between your molars. Eating humans is not only fun, but healthy. Take a bite out of a nearby waitress or lawyer and you'll regain some life. You can even snatch the goodies out of their apartments and munch on those. You do have to be wary, though, of poisons and other non-edible junk that can reduce life.

The arcade version was a quarter muncher. You had such a large sprite that there was no hope of dodging the dozens of bullets flying about the screen or giving the military the slip forever. Death was inevitable, and the only reprieve from it was to drop another quarter, though you could put off paying by eating as many morsels as possible to keep your health up. The NES version grants you unlimited continues, thereby relieving you of any challenge. There's no need to dodge bullets or go out of your way to eat everything when you can just hit the 'B' button after dying and respawn instantly.

Once you realize there's no challenge, the act of smashing civilization becomes tedious. Anyone can finish Rampage with minimal skill, as all you really need is basic understanding of button-pressing and enough perseverance to endure 128 levels. These levels wouldn't be so daunting if not for the level design, where the only differences between one level and the next are the size and placement of buildings. Beyond that, all 128 are precisely the same, and the objective never becomes more challenging.

It's understood that many arcade games are repetitive, but most of them packed on the challenge and changed up what variables they could to make each level at least feel different. Such tiny changes keep a game from going stale. Rampage does neither, and suffers for it.

The first few levels can provide a fun and cathartic experience, but Rampage's premise wears thin before even twenty minutes have gone by. Maybe developers should have figured out at the time: giant monster movies do not convert well to 8-bit videogames. Godzilla can attest to this. Hardware was too limited to fully create an environment that accentuated the awesomeness of men in rubber suits knocking over models of major metropolitan areas, or the thrill of mutated beasts going at it tooth and nail. It's one of those sad facts we have to face.

[Random fact: When I was about ten, Rampage attained a small cult following here in Spokane. This is mainly due to the fact that Spokane is one of the cities you can destroy, and we Spokanites go apeshit whenever a book, movie, TV show, or game mentions our tiny speck on the map.]


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (September 07, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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