Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Rampart has the distinction of being one of the very few original games to hit the arcades in the last few years. While the usual flood of shoot-’em-ups and beat-’em-ups get churned out every year, Atari had the guts to launch a different style of gameplay. Shock! Horror! Could the normal arcade goer cope?
The graphics were certainly not spectacular, and the MS isn’t going to visually dazzle anyone either. But the gameplay is a novel and addictive crossbreeding of Missile Command-style cannon fire and puzzle-game wall-building.
At game’s start you choose which of three castles to kick off with — the computer then surrounds it with walls and gives you some cannon to place inside the fortified citadel. Now you’re ready to face invading ships; a small flotilla of galleons sailing for the coastline with their cannon laying down a lethal bombardment.
This is the Missile Command section with you moving a cursor and pressing fire to send a cannonball on its way. You can’t hit incoming shells but instead sink the ships, using your judgment to aim ahead of moving (and heavily armed) targets.
When you’ve finished you need to repair your damaged castle walls — which is where the Tetris skills come in handy. A randomly generated wall-piece appears for you to use in repairing the gaps made by your opponents. Use [A] to rotate the piece and [B] to drop it.
There are an unlimited number of pieces, but time’s running out fast. If you fail to completely enclose your castle it’s game over.
Veteran players will not only fortify their first castle, but use the pieces to wall in other castles and expand their territory. This gives more room to site new cannon — awarded quite frequently — and improves your chances of survival. As long as just one castle is fully walled you get to continue even if your first castle’s walls are blown to bits.
Survive three waves of attacking ship, and you progress to the next level. This shows a map of the land you’re defending and you can choose your next location, which starts the process over again. You need to rethink strategy because the scenery has changed and the ships can attack from different positions.
According to Domark there’s a heckuva lot of scenery to get through and the mix of strategy, puzzle action and gunfire is very addictive, but I wish there was more variety.
The Master System version is graphically very close to the arcade, but then the machine didn’t have superior graphics in the first place. The sound’s limited, restricted to explosions and such like which are very realistic, and a grating little ditty.
But it’s the gameplay which appeals to you in this game, not too slow to be annoying and not too fast to be confusing. You really have to work at thinking out your next move.
The game also has a two player-mode which replaces the ships with another strip of land with three more castles. After each player chooses his starting castle, the walls go up, cannon are placed and action begins.
This is probably the best part of the game, involving lots of satisfyingly sneaky tactics — ie don’t aim to destroy a wall completely, just put in lots of difficult-to-repair holes! And when you win, a picture of your opponent having his head chopped off appears on screen. Satisfying!
Rampart coin-op fans should appreciate this professional conversion. Others should give this a go before mocking the graphics, in two-player mode particularly it’s great fun.
Rampart may look dull as moat water but has an addictive bite worthy of the meanest croc. The unique mix of gameplay is highly compelling, a perfect test of arcade reflexes and quick tactical thinking. The only drawback is that in solo-mode the attack waves are always ships, a little more variety here would’ve gone a long way. However if you’ve a friend to compete with, Rampart is all but unmissable. Using your cannon to create the most awkward damage is truly sadistic, although gloating rarely goes on for long with such little time to repair your own walls. In short, superb!
A good conversion and very playable