That’s okay, I’m your friend
I have a massive soft spot for the Rampage series. I’ve been fascinated with it since I was a kid. One of the first things I did while attending college is play through World Tour with a new acquaintance. It’s become a staple series for my husband and me to play. It’s simple. You drop in as a monster and mindlessly smash things until the game ends. Rampage: Universal Tour even had a hint of strategy in managing your stock of lives.
Rampage Through Time is the last of the games I had yet to play unless you count some portable ports. It only came out on the PS1 in 2000, having never received a port or re-release. Because of that, it’s been something of a mystery for me. Something I kept my eye out for so I’d have another title to play with my husband, but not something that I had to hunt down immediately. Eventually, a pristine copy joined my library, and it was just a matter of making time for it.
With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
I’ve already given the jist of the Rampage games, but here’s a bit more if you’re still unclear. You play as a 20-foot monster. You’re dropped into a city, and your goal is to raze it to the ground. To do this, you climb the sides of buildings to kick and punch them or stomp on them from above. The human military (and later, aliens) try to stop you, but you can refill your health by eating people or giant food that you find in windows. There’s not much more to it than that. It’s an act of balancing your health and dishing out as much destruction as possible.
The original arcade release in 1986 was a single-screen affair. It was a decent quarter-muncher, but it had about a billion (literally 786) levels that were roughly all the same. This made home console ports pretty excruciating since you didn’t just stop when you ran out of quarters. It expected you to keep going.
In 1997, the series was revived with Rampage: World Tour. This took the core gameplay of flattening cities and expanded it beyond a single screen. Gameplay was still almost stiflingly simple, but when you had a couple friends to play it with, it was generally a lot of fun just seeing what city you’d end up in next.
After that, Midway handed development to Avalanche Software, who did a home console exclusive, Rampage: Universal Tour. Although the name implies that you maybe spend a lot of time in space, most of the game is actually just traveling the globe again. It’s easy to dismiss it as a lazy photocopy of World Tour, but a lot of small improvements were made to make it more fitting for consoles. There were more monsters, the progression was dissected in a way that made conserving lives a bit more important, the graphics were more varied, but largely, it played mostly the same.
I really wasn’t expecting Rampage Through Time to shake things up any. Just the timing of it makes it seem like they were trying to squeeze one more game out of the same formula. The fact that it was PS1 exclusive even implies that they didn’t think it was worth porting to the N64.
The big shake-up here is that rather than just stomp across the earth a third time, you do it in different time periods. There are quite a few different settings, ranging from Ancient Egypt to the future. How does this impact gameplay? Not a whole lot. There are some enemies that only crop up in particular time periods, but buildings have always smashed the same through the ages.
In a lot of ways, it feels like a bit of a step back from Universal Tour. After every three levels, it has you play a mini-game, then it moves you to a different random time period. While each of the time periods features their own aesthetics, there’s still a lot of copy+pasting and palette swapping. There’s plenty unique in every time period, but it’s hard to ignore the buildings and humans that are just a recoloration from another time period. There’s more variety, but it’s not as visually appealing.
Gosh darn it
At this point, you may be wondering why Rampage Through Time bears the mark of kusoge. Sure, it has its drawbacks, but nothing that should make it sound like a crap game. So why has it been chosen?
Gosh darn Rampage Through Time. Gosh darn it to heck.
For some unfathomable reason, they chose to scrap the co-op campaign, and it doesn’t make any sense. Remember how I said I play these games with my husband? Well, so much for that. The only multi-player modes are a tournament through a set number of random time periods and the option to play through the game’s derivative, crappy mini-games. Nowhere will you find the satisfaction of wrecking every time period with your buddies; it isn’t an option.
I’m not a duck
There is an “adventure” mode, but it’s single-player only. Here’s where it gets perplexing: the AI plays the other two monsters. No, this doesn’t mean that all the monsters can trek wherever they please, they’re all still stuck on a shared screen, so I don’t know why a human can’t play as one of the other monsters. The only difference is that there’s a competitive edge to Rampage Through Time. You are awarded a star in any of three categories that only exist to give you a slight head start in the teeth-clenchingly maddening mini-games that mark the end of each round. By the way, if you fail to beat the computer monsters at the end of the round, you’re given a game over and kicked back to the title screen. You know, because that’s what Rampage is all about: winning crappy mini-games.
I hate it. If you asked me how to make the worst imaginable Rampage game, the top of my list would read “make it single-player only.” The games weren’t exactly all that long, but they’re undeniably repetitive. I don’t often like having people around, but the only way I was ever going to get to the end of any of the games is by having someone around to eat nachos with. It’s just easier to stay awake when there’s someone I can bore with random facts about video games and complain about some niche game not getting a modern port. Extracting the multi-player is like getting rid of the hot dog and keeping the bun. I’m not a duck! I don’t just want to eat bread!
I’m not sure I can recall the last time I’ve been so disappointed by any game. And all because they simply removed a feature. This must be what it was like for Halo split-screen co-op fans when it became online-only for Halo 5. It might just be a matter of expectations, but I don’t feel these expectations are unreasonable.
There has always been a competitive side to the Rampage games, some more directly than others. But at the end of the day, you and whoever was cuddled up to you wanted the same thing: to see all the buildings knocked to the ground. So, I’m not sure what leads to this: a Rampage where multiplayer is not only strictly adversarial but also the winner is decided by whoever can play Asteroids better. What happened? This is clearly the darkest timeline.
Thankfully, it wasn’t the end of the series. Rampage: Total Destruction was released in 2006 on GameCube, PS2, and Wii. Critics at the time decried it as more of the same, but after Rampage Through Time shot itself in the kneecap, I’m happy we got that at least.
We won’t speak of the 2018 film based on the license.