Activision ported Rampage over to Atari's 8-bit computers for its European market in 1987, but did not bother to translate it for the shrinking NTSC market. Fortunately, Sunmark has finished this task and has made available a limited run of "mega-cartridges" for North Americans. This version of Rampage, with its poorish graphics and standard sound, may not suit all tastes, but it is, very importantly, fun to play and is therefore a decent addition to all home-computer libraries. Sunmark's cartridge also has the advantage of instantaneous loading times -- a decided boon to the impatient and / or eager gamer.
Sunmark doesn't provide instructions with its cartridges, and gamers will be relieved to discover that the grab-and-smash concept of the arcade game has been transported, with a good degree of success, to the 8-bit computers.
Gamers control one of three oversized monsters (George the Gorilla; Lizzie, a "Godzilla"-type reptile, and Ralph the Werewolf) who are given free reign to flatten the respective cities found on each gaming level. Unlike most games, players here can't avail themselves of any weapons, and they only have the might of their monsters' massive bulk (and teeth) with which to subdue "enemy" military forces intent on protecting their cities.
Monster energy is quickly depleted by gunfire from individual soldiers and missiles fired from enemy tanks and helicopters, but players can replenish it by getting their monsters to eat bonuses (including people). The 8-bit version of Rampage is swarming with enemy hazards, and it's easily the most difficult console version I've played. It's a lucky gamer who can make it past the second city, and the game offers no "continues". Gamers should not, therefore, be surprised to find themselves struggling to reach five-digit scores.
Undoubtedly the most interesting aspect of the 8-bit version of the game is its structure as a two-monster (minimum) game. Single players share their game with a computer-operated monster who will both help to destroy cities and attack your own monster (and seize prize bonuses) if given the opportunity to do so. This element of gameplay imbues this version of Rampage with a great deal more strategy than might be found in other console versions. Computer-operated monsters will, for instance, draw a great deal of enemy fire away from your own monster, and gamers will have to decide if hostile companionship, rather than outright confrontation, is the key to gaming success.
Rampage also features a standard two player option which enables friends to go head-to-head with their monsters.
NOTE: Rampage will apparently work only on a keyboard equipped XEGS. It certainly does not like my machine and freezes during gameplay; XEGS users should be aware of this compatibility issue before purchasing this game.
Rampage does not immediately impress with its graphics. The game's colour palette is strangely faded and subdued -- a weakness also featured in the 7800 version of the game -- and the control creatures are rather carelessly plotted and feature little in-game emotion. This is unfortunate, as much of the fun to be had in playing most versions of Rampage is in watching the expression of your creature as he (or she) experiments with such monstrous culinary delicacies as soldiers, flower pots -- and even toilets! In this version, though, some stretch of the imagination is required to interpret a rather flat graphic blob as either Lizzie or George.
Also missing are the amusing "newspaper extra" interludes that are present in most other ports of this game. The game's amusing headlines do, however, appear beneath each respective player's monster during level interludes.
Other graphical details have been treated with more care, and they generally succeed in capturing the whimsical humour of the original arcade game. I'm especially impressed by the cityscape backdrops on each level and the variety of hazard / bonus items featured throughout the game. Enemy tanks and bonus motor vehicles are very nicely plotted, and the populations of each building -- both military an civilian -- are tiny but distinct. It's harder to distinguish between various types of bonus food items, but these are distinct enough to enable players to choose between objects that are either beneficial or hazardous to their creature's health.
Music and in-game sound effects are adequate but unspectacular. The title screen music is pleasant, if brief, and many of the in-game sound effects have been replicated from other console versions of this game. Although the sound effects do help to create a suitable gaming atmosphere, players should not expect to find here the spectacular sound effects common to other contemporaneous European games.
The average gamer may find other console versions of Rampage to be a better value and more representative of the arcade game. The 8-bit version does, nonetheless, serve up plenty of quirky -- and fun -- gaming action, and it is a reasonable translation of a particularly amusing arcade game. While Rampage should therefore be of interest to most fans of Atari's home computers, the release of this game will likely generate highest levels of interest amongst 8-bit collectors. Sunmark has manufactured only fifty cartridges of this title, and with no further production runs planned, only the lucky -- and quick -- will be able to claim this title among their home computer collections.
Rampage is now available from Sunmark in limited quantities. Game requires 64K, keyboard (for XEGS machines), and at least one joystick.