Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Aaarrr me hearties! It's the 16th century and war is being waged - which is bad news for you. The problem is that you’re in charge of fortifications and cannon operation on an island which is being invaded by an armada of greedy Spaniards. This means it's up to you to repel their fearsome water-borne attacks with accurate cannon fire, whilst keeping the fortifications around your castles in good enough order to keep the invading soldiers out.
Ramparts is a conversion of an Atari coin-op which enjoyed moderate arcade success recently. It's best described as a cross between Tetris and the ancient arcade classic Missile Command. Play alternates between a two-part strategy section, where randomly shaped wall sections must be linked together to completely surround your forts and then cannons ingeniously placed for maximum firepower. Then it’s shoot 'em up time with the cannons being aimed at incoming vessels using crosshair sights. Destroy the entire invading fleet and the island is safe.
Four bays must be successfully defended in Ramparts. Each bay has three forts, one of which you pick. The fort is fully fortified, and there is room for four cannons. At the end of each attack wave, extra cannons are awarded for the amount of territory you have managed to successfully defend. Therefore, your main aim should be to link all of the forts together with wide squares of walls, thus providing maximum bonus cannons and top firepower.
The ease or difficulty of the puzzle section depends upon your performance in the arcade level. A varying number of opposing ships sail towards your bay, launching cannonballs as they go. The player is armed with a deadly crosshair sight with which to aim his cannons. There can only be as many shots on screen at a time as you have cannons, so it is important to get your aim right. The ships constantly close in on you at great speed, making accurate shooting difficult. Damaging ships with an accurate hit is a good way of slowing their progress, but it’s all over for any sea vessel on the receiving end of two direct hits!
It's inevitable that at some time during the game, one of those pesky frigates will score a hit on your defences. Luckily, repairing these blows is what the strategy section is really for. Linking bits of wall together might sound like a bit of a jape, but those medieval architects have obviously never heard of blueprints. The wall blocks are completely random shapes, and you must repair all chinks in the walls within a strict time limit. If there are any gaps in your defences, you are done for and it’s game over!
Ramparts first appeared in arcades at the beginning of last year. Its combination of play styles assured it cult status, although it never achieved the huge success of other Atari machines. If you can track down a Ramparts machine in an arcade near you it’s definitely worth a few goes.
Ramparts can be played by either one or two players simultaneously. In two-player mode, each participant controls a castle and must face the same opposition. By rights, this should make things easier, but there's still territory to consider. As there are two of you occupying the same space, it means half as much expansion room for each of you unless you steal some from the other player! This means it's the quickest thinker who wins the day with their undoubtedly superior land ownership.
Territory points are awarded according to how much land you've enclosed.
Destruction points are awarded according to how successful your cannon-related activities are. This score (3,089) is particularly good.
Ramparts was one of the few really original arcade games of last year, and I played it a lot. It's a simple, but very challenging game with plenty of neat touches to keep you on your toes. How does this Master System version compare? Well, it’s excellent! All the features of the arcade game have been packed in, and there’s a stiff challenge on offer on the highest difficulty setting. The graphics and sound aren’t anything to home write about (the ones on the arcade original were pretty pathetic too), but in the playability stakes Ramparts is superb, offering an entertaining, addictive and long-lasting challenge (especially with two players) which should be checked out.
Whatever else you say about Ramparts, it certainly is original. The blend of arcade shoot 'em up and puzzle action seems bizarre at first, but it's really a lot of fun. The controls are responsive and the action comes thick and fast. The graphics are very colourful, although a tad blocky and the sound is below average with a bog standard tune playing throughout and a few dingy effects. If you really want something truly different that will tax both your brain and your reflexes, Ramparts is the cart for you.