Rampage World Tour (1997, Midway for Sega Saturn)
Rampage is one of those genius ideas for a videogame that everybody loves. You play as a classic movie monster who invades crowded cities and stomps everything flat. You punch holes in buildings, break windows, munch down on terrified locals, and smash everything in sight. There is no goal or purpose other than wanton mass destruction. It’s a great sugar rush, less satisfying in longer doses but perfect in short doses. This is the sort of arcade game you would play while waiting for the movie to start or the bus to arrive. It’s a terrific way to kill ten minutes.
Released in 1986, Rampage became a big hit in arcades and found its way to nearly every major home video and computer system of its day. A decade later, Midway returned with a sequel that upped the ante with new gameplay features and cities to destroy, and a new visual design that was inspired by clay animation. Rampage World Tour was another hit in arcades and found its way home to Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. This time, however, the reception was far colder and more hostile. In the age of 3D polygons, simple 2D arcade videogames were cast aside as yesterday’s fad, and magazine critics were harsh and unforgiving. They wouldn’t give George, Lizzie and Ralph the time of day.
This sort of Puritanical hostility must seem shocking today, as 2D videogames have returned to the stage, sharing space equally with 3D polygon adventures. Rampage World Tour would be hailed as a retro triumph today by the same critics who denounced it two decades ago. But such are the fickle winds of fashion and hype. It’s their loss.
I consider World Tour to be a worthy sequel that builds upon the simple thrills of the original, adding just enough depth and variety to keep things interesting. Playing as the original monster trio, you are on a quest for revenge against the evil Scum Lab, the biotech company responsible for turning you into a monster. In addition to punching and climbing buildings, you now have the ability to kick, jump or stomp buildings, adding to the destruction. Kicking the sides of buildings may shake people loose from the windows, and jumping on rooftops can cause the entire structure to collapse. Some buildings also allow you to bounce over the steel beams for bonus points and extra damage.
By punching open windows, you can uncover bonus objects that, when eaten, are either good or bad. Some windows even reveal hidden objects that allow you to travel to hidden cities around the world, aiding you in your quest to destroy all the Scum Lab factories. In addition to these, you can also hop onto larger vehicles such as tanks and aircraft. Best of all, certain stages will feature toxic waste that will transform you into a hideous monster with super powers, enabling you to fly and smash everything with ease. Finally, there are a number of bonus stages, including one where you must eat as many amusement park tourists as possible.
The graphics use the pre-rendered CG style that was popular in the wake of Donkey Kong Country, and animated in a clay animation style that has appeared in arcade games from time to time (e.g. Trog, Primal Rage). Colors are bright and vivid, animation is extremely fluid and swift, and there is a lot of humorous moments that keep you smiling. Rampage never takes itself too seriously, which is a welcome relief to my eyes. I’m not really looking to reinvent the wheel or contemplate the universe. I just wanna break things and pummel tourist traps. And what’s the harm in that?
Rampage World Tour is a good example of building upon a classic successfully, not merely copying the past but expanding upon its strengths. The Saturn release has become criminally expensive, because everything on Sega Saturn has become criminally expensive. You could pick up the Nintendo 64 cartridge for the price of a sandwich, which is just as well as all home versions are identical. But then you wouldn’t be able to use a Sega Saturn controller, which is half the reason you own this system in the first place. Once again, you are advised to beg, borrow or steal a copy from your friends until prices return to reasonable levels.