Monday, April 30, 2018

Stuff I Grew Up With/Video Game Corner: Rampage 2: Universal Tour (1999)

While I knew about Rampage: World Tour and rented and played it a number of times before I bought, I went into this one completely blind when I picked it up. In fact, I don't even think I knew that it was a thing until I went into the gaming store, which I'm very sure was Suncoast, and found it alongside World Tour. I don't remember seeing any commercials for it (what little I can find on YouTube wouldn't have left any lasting impression) and I doubt it was covered in Nintendo Power, so it was a complete surprise to find that there was another Rampage game. However, it was definitely a welcome surprise and, without even giving it a second thought I picked it up along with the first game (I know, it's not really the first game, but it was for me at the time) when I was shopping for my 12th birthday in June of 1999. When I played it, I was surprised again, this time due to how different it was from World Tour. Having looked on the back of the game's box, I knew that there were new monsters to choose from and the like but, while the gameplay was the same as before, things were more complex this time around as there was more of a story (one that actually had an arc to it, no less), there were more variables in regards to the pros and cons of the various monsters, and unlike World Tour, you didn't have unlimited lives, even if you were playing by yourself. In that regard, it definitely came across as much more serious and not as just another mindless party game where you could just smash, stomp, and crush everything without having to worry about getting a game over... which I feel makes it a bit better than World Tour. Don't get me wrong: World Tour is still enjoyable if you want to just turn your brain off for a little while, especially if you have friends over, and it has more of a personality, but this game gives you more of a challenge and forces you to take things seriously. As a result, it's not as monotonous (I stress not as monotonous, though) and there's also a tad more variety to it, making it more successful at giving you incentive to keep playing. And seeing how it didn't get the best reviews when it was released and isn't talked about as much, I'd even go as far as to say that it's a rather underrated game. It's no overlooked masterpiece but I think it deserves more than it's gotten.

When you first begin the game, you choose from one of three new monsters: a mouse monster named Curtis, a rhino monster named Boris, and a lobster monster named Ruby. You then have the option of choosing to rampage across either the United States, Asia, or Europe in order to save the three original monsters, George, Lizzy, and Ralph, who are being held in New York, Tokyo, and London respectively (I'm sure there's no significance whatsoever to their being in those particular cities). Before the game officially starts, you also get some story material via a news broadcast about how reconstruction after the events of World Tour has just ended. That's when it's revealed that Scumlabs (which is somehow still up and running, despite having been wiped off the face of the Earth previously) has had another bad accident that's resulted in the creation of giant mutants. For the first half, the game is identical to what's come before, as your goal is simply to smash every building, house, and similar structure that you see, while eating as much food and people as you can in order to keep your life-bar full, getting points through money and other objects, and fighting off those always irritating military forces. Every five or so levels, you get the opportunity to play bonus games that can give you extra lives and fill up your life and power-bars for the next level, after which you can save your game. Once you've rescued all three of the monsters, the story suddenly shifts, as aliens begin invading and taking over the planet, and you now have to journey through the rest of the countries and continents you missed before and fight off the aliens, as they begin building structures of their own in the cities (yet somehow, still continuing to destroy all the human buildings in your path amounts to driving the aliens away). After they've been vanquished, you go on to pursue them throughout the Solar System, destroying their civilizations on the various planets and moons before making it to their home-world and destroying it one city at a time. Like I said, things are more intricate this time around.

As you can see from the images, the game's art style, while still not dead-serious at all, is a little less cartoonish than that of World Tour, as he claymation look from that game is replaced with more traditional-looking graphics of the period. That said, they're still meant to be exaggerated and silly, especially in regards to the characters, who are very cartoony. The news anchor who comments on the game's events as they unfold looks like a caricature of Ted Koppel, with his overly stretched face and enormous nose, and the same goes for the silly-looking alien you see onscreen during the latter half of the game, who's actually way more over-the-top than any of the green, humanoid aliens you could eat in the previous game. And as for the monsters, not only are the newer ones impossible to take seriously simply because of what they are (giant, anthropomorphic mice, rhinos, and lobsters, along with a big, green, cyclops-like alien), but the classic ones are given shorter, bulky bodies with big, muscular torsos on top of tiny waists and stumpy legs. They kind of look like Johnny Bravo, in that regard. The levels are just as well designed as before, with a lot of detail in the buildings, streets, and everything that's going on in them, and there's more variety in the conditions present when you're destroying them, like if it's raining and storming or snowing, rather than just day or night like before. Although, also like the last game, their look tends to remain generic and often doesn't truly resemble the real-world countries and cities they're meant to be, save for some occasional bits of distinctive architecture in some of the buildings and certain landmarks. The backgrounds are what tend clue you in as to where you're supposed to be, as they have even more detail to them, and when the aliens first enter the game, you find yourself destroying examples of their otherworldly architecture even before you begin pursuing them across the Solar System, making for a nice change of pace. Speaking of said chase through space, if I can make a pun, the look of the levels on the different planets and their moons are just as nicely-designed as the Earth levels and it's interesting how they had the aliens emulate a lot of the same vehicles and building structures. After a while, though, like Earth it becomes a case of same old, same old, with the only difference being the background and whether it's during the day or at night. The game's higher stakes do manage to keep it from becoming as big of an issue but it still can't help but fall into what is this series' biggest issue: repetitiveness.

One downgrade from World Tour that Rampage 2 has in terms of it graphic capabilities is that there are no little cutscenes with animation and spoken dialogue. Here, all of the story material is relayed through text that slowly scrolls across the screen in front of still images of that news anchor and, at the very end of the game, an alien talking about how your destroying the capitol of their planet will not stop their plans for invasion. Of course, this is merely the case in the Nintendo 64 version, which is the one I've always played; the PlayStation version, on the other hand, has full on cutscenes, as well as gags that you don't get into the Nintendo version at all and which, from what I've seen, help with the game's overall feel and personality. Reading up on it, the same thing is true about the two versions of World Tour, but at least the N64 version of that game had those occasional moments where Dr. Elizabeth Veronica is talking to someone over the phone about the ramifications of the destruction you're causing. Here, the only bit of motion in these cutscenes is at the very end, when the monster Myukus grabs and eats the one alien and even then, the animation is very static and minimal. On the flip side, maybe it's best that the N64 version doesn't have those fully animated cutscenes, as you can get to the action quicker by simply bypassing the text (I'm only speculating, mind you, as I've never played the PlayStation version).

Getting into the specifics of the monsters, this game makes things a little more interesting than World Tour in that there are more variables in how they individually function. Like before, each of them has his or her own personal "Mega Food" that restores a good chunk of their life-bar but, in addition, they also have their own statistics in how well they walk, climb, and punch, as well as a special attack that they can perform when their purple power bars get filled up. Said special attacks themselves can be broken down into three types: those that destroy everything in the monsters' path until they run out of energy, those that destroy everything in the attack's range onscreen, and those that destroy one target in particular. As you might expect, Boris the rhinoceros is a crappy climber and his walking is a tad slow but, when it comes to punching, he has a lot of power. His Mega Food is a salad and his special attack is the Rhino Charge, which completely wipes out the first building he slams into. By contrast, Curtis the mouse is very weak in the punching department but is a fairly good climber and moves very quickly on the ground. His Mega Food is cheese, obviously, and his special attack, the Rat Bottom Feeder, is one of the best in the game, as he charges in one direction and destroys and damages everything in his path, including both vehicles and buildings, until his energy runs out. Of the new monsters, though, Ruby the lobster is probably the best one to go for, as all three of her stats are the same and she's really good at all of them. Her Mega Food is fish and her special attack, the Lobster Can Opener, is probably the best in the whole game, as she whirls around, can destroy anything in her path until she runs out of energy, and you can actually control which direction you want to move in, making it a great way to quickly dispense with any remaining obstacles in a level.

Getting to the original "Wrecking Crew," as they're called, George, as in World Tour, is one of the best climbers and has a really strong punch to him as well but he's not so good on the ground, as he's a tad slow. Also like before, his Mega Food is bananas and his special attack is the Ape Stomp, which badly damages any buildings and other structures onscreen (it's actually one of the lesser special moves in the game). Lizzy is also really good at climbing and is much better on the ground than George but her punches are kind of lacking. Her Mega Food is eggs (which makes a tad more sense than ladybugs in World Tour) and her special attack is Fire Breath, which is one of the attacks that hones in on a specific target. What makes it different from the others is that you get three fireballs to shoot, whereas you can only use the other special attacks once upon filling up your power bar. Ralph is much better at punching that Lizzy and also does well on the ground but, of the three previous monsters, they made him the absolute worst climber. Like before, his Mega Food is a steak and his special attack is a Wolf Howl, which seriously damages all structures onscreen when you let it loose. At the end of the section of the game when you're battling the aliens invading Earth, you wipe out Area 51 and release Myukus, a green-skinned alien monster with one big eye, after which he becomes a playable character as well. He's really good at both climbing and punching but is rather slow on the ground. He has something of a sweet tooth, as his Mega Food is an ice-cream sundae, and his special attack is Explosive Eye, wherein he pops his own eye out and it explodes, damaging whatever is in its range, making it akin to George's Ape Stomp. There are two other variations on Myukus, both of which can accessed via pass-codes: Pucous, a purple-colored one who's basically the same in terms of stats and special attack, and Noobus, a gray-colored one who's basically only for those who want a real challenge, as he sucks in all three stats (not wanting to torture myself, I've never felt the need to try to play as him). As for their individual natures, while I don't like how all of the monsters, both the old and the new, make the same low, guttural growls and roars, they do have their own "victory" animations when they win at bonus games and when you release them from imprisonment (George beats his chest, Lizzy roars, Ralph howls, Ruby does the Twist, Myukus pops his eye up into the air before smiling at the screen, etc.), so it balances it out.

While we're on the subject of the unlockable monsters, the thing is, when you release them from their imprisonment, you still have to put in a pass-code to make them playable in another game (yeah, once you've selected a monster for one save file, there's no going back). They give you the code when you bust the monster out but you better write it down or, at the very least, try to memorize it, because you're not going to see it again. Of course, in this day and age, you can just look the codes up on the internet but imagine how it was for those of us who still didn't have the internet when this game was released. Also, when you play as one of the unlockable monsters, the other monsters will take your place in imprisonment (in other words, now you'll be trying to save either Boris, Curtis, or Ruby or all three of them if you're playing with a couple of friends.

As per usual with this series, the goal of each level is to completely destroy all the buildings that you come across in order to move on and that doesn't change even during the second half when you're dealing with the aliens. Like World Tour, there are various types of buildings, from the extremely tall skyscrapers and the middle-sized office buildings, some of which have sections out in front that crumble individually and leave behind the building's innards and everything above intact (one of the bonus games is based around this principle), to houses and similar structures about the same size as your monster, as well as short but wide buildings that you can bounce up and down on. Also like before, in destroying the buildings, you can either climb up both sides and smash each and every window to get what's inside or climb up to the top and either punch or stomp down, crushing one floor at a time until the structure collapses (you'll often find yourself having to do one of the latter two anyway, as the buildings in this game are sturdier than the ones from before). Despite these similarities, a major difference between the two games is how this one handles the inevitable bombings by the armed forces that occur in each level (both on Earth and on the aliens' various civilizations across the galaxy). Once again, if you take too long to destroy a city, you'll hear an air raid siren and you'll have less than a minute left to finish the job before the city is bombed by the squadron of jets that come flying in, first in the background and then from right-to-left in the foreground before finally doing so. But, while that automatically ended the level before, here it actually hurts you, draining away more than half of your health. The level then continues and it won't be long before another squadron of bombers comes in, meaning that you'll most definitely lose a life if you don't hurry up and destroy the remaining buildings. In other words, here every city must be completely leveled before you can move; there are no evacuations or percentages of destruction to be found. After each level, you're graded on three points: building damage, vehicle damage, and people eaten. You see a scale with your monster's face on it and bars above each statistic indicating how well you did, and if you're playing with friends, whichever one of you destroys the most is considered a "winner," although I can't remember if this actually gives you more points or what.

While you once again travel across the world, going from one city to another as you wreck them, here it's in a much broader sense, as your focus is initially on the United States and the specific continents of Asia and Europe and after that, you go to all the major ones that are left. In other words, you're not going to be attacking every little town and obscure country you can think of, like in World Tour, especially since you have to go from the Earth to the Solar System, as you wipe out the aliens. The developers did also put the various moons of the planets in as levels, likely to ensure that the game wasn't too short, but you're only destroying one city per planet and moon, until you get to their home planet and go from city to city again. All of this is shown to you via an Indian Jones-style mapscreen where you see a moving line connecting one point on a continent, or in space, to another, with a transparent sprite of your monster running and big letters up top that say, MOVIN' ON. There are little bits of text beneath the name of each city you come to but they don't have the personality as those in World Tour and there's not as much variety, as they're either telling you to destroy all the buildings to advance to the next level or that eating a lot of people can restore your health, both of which you should already know (plus, they're a bit more detailed than I think is necessary; do we really need to know the exact time of day?) There are also more real-life landmarks to be destroyed in this game, like the White House and the Capitol in Washington, the Sears Tower in Chicago, and in New York, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and... the Twin Towers. Yeah, remember how, in my World Tour review, I said that I was surprised there weren't as many real structures to destroy since that game was made before 9/11, when people became very sensitive to that? Well, while it is nice that they took more of an initiative to do so this time around, it's still bizarre to be climbing on each of the Twin Towers and smashing them until they come crumbling down. Moreover, the first of those expository newscasts in the game kind of makes it a little bit worse, as it talks about how New York, in particular, is celebrating the end of its "rebuilding process." This is all akin to that cover art for the NES game of Die Hard in that there's no one at fault here, and it just marks a more innocent time in history, but, regardless, it may make some a tad uncomfortable.

As with the previous game, there are plenty of items to be found behind the buildings' windows and on the streets that give you points, replenish your health, and slowly but surely fill up your energy bar. You not only come across food of all kinds but eating humans, as well as the aliens during the game's latter half, replenishes your health by a little bit more than it did in World Tour; you can find items that will give you a lot of points, like dollar bills (the amount shown on them is multiplied by ten when you grab them), gold bars that are worth 1,500, and diamonds that are worth 2,000; items that increase your strength for a short time, like boxing gloves, barbells, and weights; items that make you temporarily immune to damage, like teddy bears and such (this time, the monsters don't have individual "security" items); and hourglasses and clocks that give you more time (they will work if you grab them after the air raid siren sounds but not for long). Like the previous game, there are also cargo planes that fly by that drop crates carrying livestock, and sometimes enemies, if you punch them but I find I don't have as much time to bother with them; pepper that makes you sneeze and wipe out an entire floor of a building (there are no objects that the monsters are allergic to individually); and bombs that, when uncovered, will completely destroy the building in question. The best items in the game are completely new: green and purple-colored energy orbs that completely fill up your health and energy bars respectively.

Once again, though, there are plenty of hazards to be found as well, chief among them objects that will make you vomit and cause damage to your health bar if you eat them. This time, it's much clearer what you can and can't eat, as the unhealthy objects are things like scissors, gasoline tanks, bottles of poison, ashtrays, and other stuff that common sense should let you know you shouldn't touch. The same goes for certain objects on the street, like benches, phone booths, and such. The objects that either flat-out hurt you, like fireplaces that'll set your hand ablaze (the fire doesn't completely burn down the building this time, either) and lit lamps and similar objects that'll electrocute you, or spray you with water and cause you to fall off the building, like washing machines, toilets, and water cooler, are also back, and speaking of water, you again must avoid it as much as possible. It's not as easy to smash through the street and create a puddle at spots where there's a canal but it can still happen and, if you fall in, you better get out quick, as your health bar will slowly drain away. The same rubble hazards from before (those burning, electrically charged, and smoking excessively) apply here, too, as do those seemingly harmless rubber duckies you find in buildings that will bring the air force in much earlier than normal if you punch them five times.

On the human side of things, there aren't many new enemies to contend with here; in fact, some of the more memorable ones from the previous game, like the "laser jets," the jetpack guy with flamethrowers, the Frybots, and the Beelzeborg, don't return at all. What are back are the attack helicopters, the jeeps with mounted guns, rocket launcher and cannon-wielding soldiers, civilians throwing sticks of dynamite, and the ever-annoying tanks. While they're all just as susceptible to attack as before, some of them tend to be harder to find or get to, as those ground troops often hide behind foreground graphics like trees and fire on you constantly, and the tanks' shells are still very potent, able to knock you down or off a building, even when they fire from a great distance, and they can keep you at bay while continuing to hit you very easily. Because of that, and also because they still take three hits to destroy and you can't jump and ride on them here, I find it best to use the special attacks on the tanks, with Lizzy's fire breath being the most useful. Just as annoying as the tanks are bombers that start off certain levels by rushing from one side of the screen to another while dropping their payload. Sometimes, they even come in pairs, with the two of them either heading in the same direction or heading towards each other from opposite sides and crossing paths, meaning you have nowhere to take cover. The bombs aren't as harmful to you as the tank shells but they'll keep coming in for passes until you destroy them, so it's best to take them out as soon as possible. You have to climb up a building in order to reach them but it can be difficult to figure out the best spot to reach them, as the buildings' heights sometimes don't line up correctly and it's made even worse if you're playing as a monster who has short arms. The aliens have their own versions of bombers, as they do all the other types of defense like ground troops, attack helicopters, and tanks. Their "helicopters" are these spaceships that fly in and zap you and they're a lot more agile and relentless in their attacks than the human ones. Their "tanks" are these mobile, spider-shaped vehicles that don't pack as much of a wallop but they can still wear down your health with how relentless they are and how accurate their aim is. What's more, they take five hits to destroy and they continuously respawn, so it's best to just avoid them and focus on your business.

It's very important to take all these threats seriously because, again, you have a finite number of lives this time, and once they run out and you shrink back down to your human form, the game is over. After every six or so levels, you get the option to save your progress, which is one you, nine times out of ten, shouldn't pass up, no matter how confident you may be, but you also run the risk of getting stuck with a save file where you start out with few lives and very low health, once again showing that this is a game where you actually have to think a little bit. The game also comes with the option to increase the difficulty level if you really want a challenge, but you'd best use discretion, as the enemies will be harder and more numerous (you can run into three tanks where there's normally only one) and the items fewer and far between.

Before the level that leads into the save option, you play one of several bonus games but even these aren't easy as you might think, especially the three for single player. The one that makes me groan when the most whenever I have to play it is the one where you have to destroy this skyscraper before the time runs out. At first glance, this may not seem that difficult, until you realize that it's one of those buildings that has a separate section out in front that crumbles by itself, leaving the interior and the very top still intact. The most effective way to go about it is to climb to the top of the base and either stomp or punch down on it until you hear it beginning to crumble, then quickly grab onto what's left of it, climb up to the top of the tower, and repeat the process. If you don't grab onto the back of the building in time or if you accidentally do one stomp too many and jump off as the front begins to crumble, you'll run out of time because, down below, you have to wait for it crumble in order to climb the building's remains. And the building must have completely crumbled before the timer reaches zero; you get nothing if it's still coming down when you run out of time. Even if you win, you'll probably never come out with more than five seconds to spare. As much as I hate that one, there's another that, technically, is nigh impossible to do correctly: the long jump. You start out on top of a small structure, from which you have to jump and then repeatedly press the A-button in order to make your monster hover in the air so you can cross a great distance and land on one of the docks in order to get power-ups. That move is ridiculously hard to do correctly and I've never been able to get farther than the dock that's simply marked "GOOD" (you do get an extra life, full health, and full power just for that, though). What's more, if you fall in the water, you don't get anything, but simply hopping down off the starting platform will get you full health, so if you desperately need it, it's best to take the easy way out. The best bonus game is the one where you simply have to stomp and kick as many people as you can before time runs out (I always kick; I find that the stomp is hard to do successfully here).

I hope you'll forgive me but my memory of the multiplayer bonus games is very hazy, as it's been so long. I do remember a King of the Hill type of game, the title of which sums it all up (I remember the space you were forced to stand on being very narrow), and there were also contests based around who could destroy buildings faster (in this case, small apartment buildings, meaning you really had to race to crush it before the other player), who could crush the most people, who could do the best in that long jump game, and another grudge match between the players. I think that's all but, again, I could be very wrong. Such is the price of no longer having any friends interested in gaming.

As with World Tour, there's no point in going into a level by level breakdown, as they're virtually the same in regards to the hazards, enemies, and items that you come across, with only the smallest difference in the details. Like that game, you come across a lot of non-threatening vehicles and aircraft like civilian cars and taxi cabs, police cars, tanker trucks, cargo planes and jumbo jets, various boats in the harbors, and, in the first level, news choppers that you can easily destroy for extra points (again, it's fun seeing how the vehicles will react to the different ways you hit them, as they'll either just explode or fly through the air before hitting the ground and exploding). Another holdover from the previous game are those manhole cover lids that, after you scoop up and eat the cannon-wielding soldiers hiding beneath them, will bounce across the level and instantly destroy any vehicle or aircraft they hit (it's easier to do this time, too, as the soldiers pop up to fire much more frequently). The coolest vehicles to take out, though, are the trains that sometimes appear: punch or kick one car and all the others behind it will topple over and instantly explode. You'd think you wouldn't be able to hit those on the elevated tracks in the background of certain levels but, nope, they're vulnerable too. Like I said earlier, there's a bit more variety in terms of the weather and the time of the day you attack certain cities, and the levels themselves do again tend to vary from being big cities to smaller, suburban environments and full-on rural areas, but, because of the game's focusing on the really major cities and countries, you more often than not find yourself in something of an urban environment. Finally, maybe it's because I'm more focused on what I'm doing due to the game's higher difficulty but I don't see as many funny things going on with the civilians. I'm still seeing stuff like guys juggling in the middle of the sidewalk, Elvis impersonators still doing their thing despite what's going on, people sleeping on park benches, and the exaggerated reactions from those looking out the windows, but it doesn't feel as played up as it was before.

The arrival of the aliens as they attempt to invade Earth and your subsequently pursuing them through the Solar System until you reach their home planet does help break up the monotony that the game inevitably falls into, the alien cities that you destroy are cool to look at, and it is kind of funny to see how the aliens themselves are similar to the humans in regards to how their defense and the banal nature of their lifestyles (as well as the names of their planet's major cities: Las Veegus and Newd Yoke, to name a couple), but it isn't take long before that luster wears off and things get kind of repetitive. It would have helped if the developers had come up with different types of weapons for the aliens to throw at you besides the laser-shooting spaceships and "spider-tanks" and I think it also would have been nice if they made the more mundane things you find within their buildings, like the bathtubs, toilets, etc., look as otherworldly and advanced as the civilian vehicles and aircraft you find in those levels. The game's final level, while not exactly a boss battle, is more intense than the finale of World Tour, as you destroy the aliens' capitol city of Flachulas until all that's left is the central core, which you must repeatedly attack and wear down its life-bar. What makes this harder than it sounds is that the core's energy depletes little by little with every hit; it actually has two life-bars, as another pops up after you've gotten the initial one worn down from its healthy green color to yellow; both of these life-bars are quite long; and you're constantly being fired upon by the aliens' defense forces, including the bombers, which will no doubt start buzzing by this point. It is useful if you can use a special attack, which does deplete the core's energy by a considerable part, but otherwise, you just have to power on through and keep attacking, gradually cracking and exposing the core, until it finally blows up and you've won.

What really gives the game a lot of the personality that it does have is its music, which, like before, captures the light-hearted, comic tone of the series in general. The main theme, which you hear over the menu screen, miscellaneous levels, and bonus games, is this really goofy electronic guitar piece, and the rest of the tracks that you hear during the game's earthbound first half are other electronic ones that range from being kind of understated to full-on loud and bombastic (particularly the one that plays whenever you're shown your stats for the level you completed). I also have to make mention of this very simple strumming bit that you hear on the map screens in-between levels, just because it's so casual and nonchalant-sounding for a depiction of monsters going from one city to another as they destroy everything, which perfectly sums up the idea of these games as a whole. During the last third of the game, when you're traveling from planet to planet and ultimately end up on the aliens' home world, you get two new themes to fit the otherworldly settings. One of them is a really cool, melodic, kind of synthesizer piece that really works well with the notion of outer space and aliens, and the other is a faster-paced, more hard-hitting one, albeit still with that same distinctive, otherworldly feel. The only thing is, like with World Tour, there's no theme that was made solely for the final level or for the ending credits to make you feel like you've truly reached the end; it's just one of the themes that's already been established at the beginning of the game. I guess that kind of goes back to the arcade tradition of this series (even though this one was never in the arcade) but it would have been nice for some more specific pieces of music.

Rampage 2: Universal Tour is likely to never be as fondly remembered as the original or World Tour and that's a shame because, while not perfect by any means, it more than holds its own within the series and, in many ways, is superior to its immediate predecessor. It has more of a storyline, the new monsters, different art-style, tweaks on the gameplay, and the switch to fighting aliens halfway through help keep things fresh, there are more variables to how the monsters individually perform, which helps them to stand out from each other more, it has a nice, memorable soundtrack, and the lack of infinite lives and the difficulty settings give it more of a challenge, all while still keeping the nicely-detailed level designs and mindless, smashing fun that the series as a whole is known for. However, the game does suffer from not quite having the personality that World Tour did (at least when it comes to the N64 version), the bonus games can be a tad too difficult, there's, again, no real feeling of having accomplished something when you do beat it, and it does, inevitably, fall into the same feeling of repetitiveness that the series is known for. But, if you're a fan of the series and want more of a challenge from these games, this is still well worth your time and deserves more attention than it's gotten since it was first released.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Stuff I Grew Up With/Video Game Corner: Rampage: World Tour (1997)

I think it's been made clear by this point that I'm very much a child of the 90's and, while I'm definitely up on all things relating to movies past and present, when it comes to video games, if it was made before that decade, chances are I've never played it or never even heard of it until much later than I normally would have. Obviously, I played the original three Super Mario Bros. games on the NES many times as a kid and still play them to this day (at least, in their Super Mario All-Stars forms), as well as some of the original Donkey Kong games on that original system, but when it comes to many other big name game franchises from the early days of gaming, I know of them but have never played them. Castlevania? Nope. Metroid? Mm-mm. The Legend of Zelda? Nah. (Never been interested in that franchise, anyway.) Bubble Bobble? Ninja Gaiden? Double Dragon? Seriously, never even heard of them until I started watching the Angry Video Game Nerd. And again, that's just home video games; when it comes to arcade games, forget it. Case in point, I'd never heard of Rampage until I read about the Nintendo 64 port of Rampage: World Tour in an early 1998 issue of Nintendo Power magazine and, while I would eventually play the arcade version in the back of a store like a Wal-Mart or Target, even then, I didn't know until recently that this was a remake of an earlier game (that wasn't helped by the fact that the follow-up to this was called Rampage 2 but let's not get ahead of ourselves). Regardless, if you've been reading my blog for a long time now, it probably won't surprise you to learn that the game's images in that magazine immediately grabbed my attention. Not only was the idea of playing as monsters that were blatant parodies of King Kong and Godzilla appealing but also just the thought that the only goal was to destroy and eat as much as you could before the time ran out. It wasn't long after that when I began seeing the TV commercials for it, which were pretty funny, as they began with this guy who comes up to a podium to make a "statement," only to let out this really loud belch, and then became just a montage of gameplay footage, with a woman talking about how up to three players could destroy the world by eating everything they could find. Again, it looked like a lot of fun and inherently appealing, so I had to play it.

When it came out, I began renting it from the video rental stores in our area, both the one in my home town and another near where my aunt lived, before finally buying it in early 1999 and I played it not only by myself but also often with my cousins and the son of my aunt's live-in boyfriend. There's no way I can describe it other than to say it was an absolute blast. It was really simple and easy to figure out how to play, and we just had fun not only smashing everything that was onscreen but also giving each other jabs every now and then (all bets were off when it came to the mini-games where we had to fight each other). Off-hand, I would say that Mario Kart 64 and GoldenEye were the absolute best multiplayer games we had during our childhood, but this was still a fun one. While I think that's the best way to play it, even playing by myself, both back then and now, the simplicity makes it enjoyable. That said, though, I think it's a game that's best played in small doses, as it can get repetitive very quickly and the fact that you have unlimited continues (at least in single player mode) takes away any real challenge that would make you want to keep playing for a significant length of time.

The story and the gameplay are as basic as you can get. Three scientists working for the Scumlabs corporation, George, Lizzy, and Ralph, are exposed to a chemical explosion at one of the facilities and mutate into giant monsters that destroy the nearby town. They begin traveling the world, wrecking every city they come across, in a mission to completely wipe Scumlabs off the face of the Earth. That's all there is to it: you choose one of the three monsters, destroy every building and structure you come across in each stage (preferably before the military evacuates and bombs the city), while fighting off the military forces, and then move on to the next city. Most of the levels are American cities but the game gives you the option to travel to a foreign country and eventually destroy the Scumlabs facility there through the option of punching "World Tour" signs and flags that correspond to the countries. Regardless, there are 129 levels in total and they all consist of the same goal, with only minute differences in-between. Therefore, you're not going to get a detail level-by-level breakdown like you often do with my video game reviews, as I'd just be saying the same thing again and again and it'd get boring really quick (I will, however, talk about what happens at the end of the game).

Rampage has never been a tonally serious franchise but, when I compare the art style of this game to that of the original arcade game, it's clear that this is the one where it got positively cartoonish. Not only do the monsters look far goofier than they did before, with the implausible body proportions and their silly expressions, but the game as a whole is done in a claymation style, which becomes very apparent during the cut-scenes in-between certain levels when you see Dr. Elizabeth Veronica tallying the scores and talking to someone over the phone, whom I assume is meant to be the evil CEO Eustace DeMonic, whom you see glaring at the screen every time you destroy a Scumlabs facility. That said, the game does have an appeal with how it looks, with the graphics also being bright and colorful, and the levels are nicely detailed, with lots of stuff going on in the foreground around you, like people and vehicles running at your feet and planes, helicopters, and other aircraft flying past, and various layers to the background, with the farthest ones looking like they're hand-drawn. The only thing is that both the people and the buildings look the same for the most part, even when you're in different countries. They'll throw in pieces of architecture that you associate with various countries (pagodas, Aztec-style pyramids, etc.), as well as people wearing the appropriate clothing (Buckingham Palace guards, snake charmer-like people wearing turbans, and so on), but for the most part, it's the same Caucasian people running around generic urban infrastructure. But, then again, this is a game that involves monsters puking when they eat something bad, people getting splattered into bloody skeletons whenever they're kicked or stomped, silly-looking robots for you to face, and so on, so it's not like it's meant to be 100% true to life.

Even as a kid, I thought it was strange that this was a multiplayer game for the Nintendo 64 that didn't take advantage of the console's full capabilities and had it so that only three people could play at a time instead of the maximum of four (in fact, I can't think of another multiplayer game for the system where that was the case). I know that's how it was in the arcade but when they ported it to the N64, they could have made some changes and thrown in a fourth monster. Regardless, I always liked how the monsters looked and the fact that they were meant to be parodies of classic movie monsters, with George being King Kong and Lizzy being Godzilla (it always annoyed me how the Godzilla equivalent was a female but I often chose her, regardless), but Ralph kind of stood out in how he's a typical-looking werewolf, just ballooned up to an enormous size. All of the monsters have virtually the same statistics, with the same moves (punching, kicking, jumping while doing both, and being able to hover in the air for a brief moment when you press the A-button repeatedly after jumping), and the differences between them are very slight. George appears to be the most well-rounded of the three, being one of the heaviest and especially good at climbing; Lizzy is the lightest and, by extension, moves the quickest; and Ralph is something of a balance of the two of them. Their "voices," while all having an unnatural, mutant quality to them, are individually unique sound to each one, with George having the deepest, most growly one, especially when he's eating, while Lizzy has the highest-pitched sound that comes across as vaguely feminine, and Ralph is in the middle, sounding male but also much more high-pitched than George. Each of the monsters also have their own individual mega-foods, which restore a good chunk of their health, and security items that you can find during the gameplay, with George's being a banana bunch and teddy bear, Lizzy a ladybug (which I don't get the relevance of at all; in fact, I never knew that's what that sprite was meant to be until just recently) and a doll, and Ralph a steak and a bone. Finally, when you choose your monster during the select screen, you can also change their color palette by pressing up or down.

There are several types of buildings that you can climb and destroy: small houses and fast-food restaurants, medium-size office and apartment buildings and motels (the most common type), and really tall skyscrapers. You also have several options in bringing them down. You can climb up the sides, smashing each window one by one, and grabbing or, depending on what it is, avoiding whatever you find inside (the buildings don't last long after you've completely demolished one side of them); grab onto them and kick them from the sides several times in order to completely blow out whole floors; or climb up top and smash them down to the ground, either by pounding the roofs or jumping up and stomping them floor by floor. All three methods are viable but you have to choose which one will work in a given situation, like if you're running out of time or you're taking heavy fire from the defense forces, and you also have to keep in mind that some of these methods make it impossible to get the items hidden in the windows. There are also short but wide buildings, like funeral parlors and city halls, that expose a long, bouncy steel beam up top when you climb on the roof and you can bounce on them several times in order to fight oncoming flying enemies or to reach special objects that appear up in the sky; if you don't feel like bouncing, though, you can just grab onto their sides and punch them until they collapse. Going back to what I said about a time limit, if you take too long to destroy a city, sirens will go off and the military will soon in and bomb the remaining buildings after they've evacuated everyone. You'll be able to go on to the next level if this happens but you won't get as high a score.

There are all sorts of items to be found in the windows and on the city streets: various foods, including people and various livestock in crates that tumble out of cargo planes and jumbo jets you destroy, objects that give you points when punched, and different types of power-ups. The latter include "More Power," which grant you the ability to wipe entire floors of buildings and some of the tougher enemies with one punch or kick after you hit a boxing glove, a barbell, or weights; "More Time," when you punch hourglasses (these seem to show up in the shortest levels, though); "Hot Loogie," which allows you to spit fireballs that completely engulf buildings or enemies on the ground after you find and hit TV sets with faces on them that turn red; "Death Breath," allowing you to let out a scream that destroys every building, aircraft, and enemy in your direction after you hit a TV with a screaming face (both of these power-ups can last for three to four uses and carry over from level to level); the aforementioned different security items for the individual monsters; light-blue triangles that, when punched, blow up every vehicle and aircraft onscreen; and the foreign flags that, along with the "WORLD TOUR" signs you find on the streets, take you to different countries. Other notable items include a calculator, which will increase the effectiveness of bonus items you grab afterward; types of animals that, when eaten, cause your monster to sneeze and take out an entire floor of a building (for George, it's dogs; Lizzy, it's birds; and Ralph, it's cats), and, best of all, purple toxic waste lying on the ground in levels featuring a Scumlabs facility. If you eat it, you'll turn into V.E.R.N. (Violently Enraged Radioactive Nemesis), a big, demonic, purple, bat-like creature that has the ability to destroy the tougher enemies and entire floors in buildings in one swipe. Once you've become him, you're basically invincible for the rest of the level, so it's best to find the toxic waste as soon as possible.

While people, by and large, barely restore your health when you eat them, a way to make them work is to eat a bunch of them at once at the "Tourist Traps" you find in certain cities. These are small structures separate from the buildings that you can smash open to reveal big crowds of people that just stand there and allow you to gobble them up without any resistance. They don't count as being necessary to destroy in order to move on to the next level, so if you destroy all the buildings before you reach a Tourist Trap, you won't have enough time to get into it and eat everyone before you're whisked away to the score screen. There are also objects that appear in the sky, like solitary clouds, circling eagles, satellites, Scumlab blimps, men hanging from balloon bunches, and the like, that give you points when you touch them and keep doing so until they explode. You don't even have to punch them but rather, just let your body come into contact with them. Sometimes, you can stand atop a building and touch them but, more often than not, you have to use the short, wide buildings with bouncy innards to reach them. Finally, in some levels, a big alien mothership, no doubt inspired by Independence Day, which was only a year old when the game hit the arcades, will show up and float through the level, as it randomly teleports and beams up little green aliens on the street. You can destroy it for points as well, although you have to punch it and it takes a good number of them to finally make it blow up, so it's best to ignore it unless you have plenty of time to spare.

Of course, there are plenty of hazards to be found in the levels as well, and I'm not just talking about enemies. There are a number of objects that you find hidden in the windows that are hazardous to your health, be it making you puke if you eat them or deliberately harming you if you punch them. While the former are often easy to identify, as they're stuff you can tell would be harmful to eat (paint-cans and brushes, radiation symbols, bars of soap, and such), sometimes you can be thrown for a loop by what you can eat, like potted plants and tables with fishbowls. As for the latter, you have lit lamps and active TV sets and computers that will electrocute you if you hit them (if you wait a few seconds, they become safe to hit for points), as well as ovens and fireplaces that, when hit, will let loose a moving flame that'll burn down the building... but will also engulf you if you punch the flame itself. Once in a while, you'll uncover a bomb that will blow the building to smithereens within a second of your uncovering it and a rubber duck that may seem completely innocuous but, if you punch it five times, the evacuation sirens will sound earlier than they should! You also have to make sure not to eat benches, phone-booths, and food-stands on the street, wait for neon signs on the sides of buildings to briefly flash off when you punch them, and beware of rubble from destroyed buildings that can either give you a hot foot, zap you, or make you cough from the smoke, as well as patches of water, be they the ocean or puddles that you smash open when you jump at a spot where there's a canal, because you slowly lose health when you fall in water. Some levels have military installations that fire missiles up into the air and back down at you; they'll set you on fire if they hit. Others have random lightning bolts that are nigh impossible to avoid because they hit when you least expect them.There are pieces of furniture, specifically white chairs, brown sofas, and little chairs, that don't do anything other than smash down onto the street when you hit them in the windows, and if you hit a toilet, a bathtub, or a washing machine when you find one of them, you'll get sprayed in the face with water and fall off the building. You can grab and eat people you find using them, though (and I just now realized that in some cases, you're grabbing and eating a guy sitting on a toilet... can you spell "ew?")

The enemies you face in the game range from being little more than pests to real hazards to your health. People that shoot or throw sticks of dynamite at you, be they civilians who lean out the building windows or cops and soldiers on the street, aren't much of a threat but their constant shooting can add up over time, so it's best to take them out of the equation when you can (some of them drop bombs on the street that will blow you sky-high if you step on them). Soldiers who drive by on the road while unloading machine guns on you can really sap your health, as the angled lines of bullets they fire can be nigh impossible to avoid, and those on the ground that hit you with bazookas and the ones hiding under the manhole covers are downright annoying, as they can knock you off a building or stop you in your tracks. (What's funny, though, is that if you scoop up one of those latter soldiers when they pop up to blast you, you'll send the manhole cover bouncing and it'll destroy any type of enemy vehicle it hits.) The helicopters that constantly harass you are even worse than the jeeps because they can follow you everywhere, can easily turn around and come at you for another pass, and they're unlimited, no matter how many you destroy. In some levels, in order to correspond with the aforementioned mothership, small alien ships will take the place of the helicopters, zooming from one side of the screen to another, often while zig-zagging up and down, while shooting lasers at you. Speaking of lasers, laser jets, which are these silver-colored, futuristic-looking jet-planes, are similar to the helicopters and spacecrafts but the key difference is that their lasers make them more potent. At the same time, they simply hover up and down in one spot and, if you jump at one while facing the same direction as the nose, you can grab on top of it and ride it for a few seconds, decimating anything in your path.

One of the worst types of enemies are these dickheads with jetpacks who fly around and blast you with flamethrowers. They take only three hits to destroy but they're very quick and agile and often hover just out of reach of your punch, which is irritating, because they can set you on fire and cause you to fall off a building. A similar enemy, called a "Frybot," shows up on the ground and is basically an AT-ST from Star Wars that fires volleys of bullets at you. It takes only four hits to destroy but every time you hit it, it comes back with its flamethrower, which is nearly impossible to avoid when you're as close to it as you have to be to score a hit. The most annoying enemies for me are the tanks, as their shells knock you on your back and they can hit you with two or three of them before you manage to reach them. Once you do, though, you can kick them three times to destroy them and you can jump and ride on them too, although it's harder to pull off than the jets. Finally, there's the "Beezleborg," Scumlabs' ultimate weapon that you can guarantee on facing whenever you get the cut-scene where Dr. Elizabeth Veronica asks about it. It's a big, tough-looking robot with a skull on its forearm that drops bombs on the street and can punch you halfway across the level. If you don't have a power-up, the only way to inflict damage on it is to come at it with a running kick to avoid getting punched, while also avoiding the bombs it drops, and even then, it takes a number of hits to destroy... only for it to reveal a Frybot that requires a few more hits!

As I haven't played the game with another person in many years, I think I forgot that it is possible to run out of lives in multiplayer mode, whereas in single player mode, you have unlimited continues. I can remember when I played with my cousins how, eventually, you'd die and never come back, forcing your buddy to carry on without you (that is, if they didn't eat you when you turned back into a naked human when you ran out of energy), which is how it was in the arcade. I'm not sure but I think it's also possible to get a game over in the single player mode if, when you revert back to human form, you don't immediately continue and your human dies by wandering into some flaming or electrical rubble. Again, I could be wrong on that and if I am, somebody could correct me on that, but otherwise, it seems like when you're playing by yourself, you keep going until you win, whereas in multiplayer, you have to be less gun-ho.

There are several types of bonus levels that you can play in the game, one of which you go to automatically whenever you get the "World Tour" option (it also happens at the end of the game if there are Scumlabs facilities remaining in other countries after you've cleared out all those in North America). It's a very quick bit of you holding onto the top of a jumbo jet and flying through an airspace that's full of bonus items like Scumlabs blimps, hot air balloons, civilians hanging onto balloons, small clouds, and satellites, all of which you can aim for. The best item to go for is a ring of circling stars, which gives you a power-up when you reach the next city. However, there are also bombs tied to balloons floating in the air that, while they don't hurt you can, momentarily stun you and can prevent you from reaching other items around you. Another bonus level that comes up now and then is one where the goal is simply to eat as many people on the ground as you can before you run out of time in order to get some extra points. It's best to go for the people who keep parachuting in as they land, rather than those that are already on the ground as your monster tends to toss them up into the air and catch them in the mouth, which can waste your time, rather than simply grabbing them and popping them in. As for the multiplayer bonus games, you had Death Match, where the two or three of you fight in a ring until one completely drains the other(s) of health, and Grudge Match, which is set on a ball-field and the winner is whichever one hasn't lost consciousness when time runs out.

Speaking of "Buddy Bashing," that's one of the things that you're graded on after destroying each city along with four other variables: Property Damage, People, Food, and Vehicles. The Buddy Bashing, which is possible since you can punch, kick, and use power-ups on each other (you can even kick each other in the groin and make the other monster moan in pain), is done just out of fun but the other variables are multiplied 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 respectively, with a special achievement being awarded for whichever one you excel at, "Wrecking Balls o' Doom!" when you destroy a lot of buildings and infrastructure or "Pig Out!" when you positively gorge yourself. Like I said before, though, if you're unable to destroy a city before the jets come in and bomb it, your score will be smaller.

Normally, this is where I would go into the level by level breakdown but again, with this game, the goals, items, hazards, and enemies are the same from one to another, with only the most minute differences in the details, so it would get boring and redundant very quickly. Besides those that I've already gone into, other things that you're guaranteed to run into each level include various types of non-threatening vehicles that you can destroy (like police cars, which you can send whirling through the air when you hit them from behind; orange-colored civilian cars that will fly straight up and come down whistling like a bomb if you hit them in the same way; and tanker, ice cream, and record trucks that blow up and incinerate anyone standing near them when you hit them), cargo planes and jumbo jets that drop crates full of either livestock or fruit when you punch them (some of them don't have anything in them and others actually contain policemen who immediately start shooting at you), and buses and trains on both the street and in the background that you can punch and send them flying wildly throughout the level. It's also funny sometimes to watch some of the human characters you find on the street, as some of them are completely oblivious to what's going on, either sitting on benches while reading the newspaper (they actually look up for a second and go back to reading, as if to say, "Oh, okay,"), sleeping on said benches, talking in the phone-booths, or just standing around and conversing, including big groups of people who don't run for the hills until you get right on top of them. That's, of course, to say nothing of the people in the windows who are either sitting on the toilet, lazing in the bathtub, sitting on couches or on stairs, or watching TV like they're completely unaware that their city is being raided by giant monsters. What's really weird, though, is how you sometimes see these old, decrepit-looking men on the street who leave behind a skeleton that falls apart when you eat them, as well as these little sheds containing three skeletons when you smash them... which can be found near certain houses. I never thought about that until I was replaying the game but, man, that's kind of dark, isn't it?

While the levels are basically the same for the most part, the look and layout of the areas you attack change not only to show where in the world you are but also whether you're attacking little podunk towns in the middle of nowhere (particularly in the western U.S.), small suburbs with long stretches of road between neighborhoods (sometimes, you start out in these roads and have to walk to the action), fairly big towns, and large cities. In-between levels, you get these taglines that are both funny and sometimes informative, with the first one simply telling you to destroy all buildings to go to the next level, while others offer up advice like, "PUKING IS PAINFUL! Watch what you eat," and, "Looting is lucrative. Collect cash for points." Some of them are just meant to be silly, like, "BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS. Eat interesting people," "INDULGE YOURSELF. You can diet when you get back home," and, "If other monsters don't love and respect you, beat the snot out of them." You do see notable real-life landmarks in some of the cities that you go to, like the Statue of Liberty in New York and Big Ben in London but save for the latter and the Houses of Parliament, that's about all you get. Remember, this game is pre-9/11, before people came very sensitive about the depiction of city destruction in media, so you'd think you would be able to destroy the Empire State Building or, at the very least, the Chrysler Building in New York, but no, the tallest building that you destroy is in Chicago Loop (and no, I don't think it's meant to be the Sears Tower). Still it is interesting to see those monuments and they correspond nicely to the cities you're meant to be attacking, which is more than I can say for the random appearances of alien spaceships and motherships. Sometimes it makes sense, like in New Mexico (you know, Roswell) and Washington, D.C. (the cover-up conspiracy), but in other cities, their popping up is at pure random. By the way, the aliens that are beamed down to the ground are edible and they make the same kind of yelling noises like men and women when you eat them, so you at least know what gender of alien you ate (some of them inexplicably make the sound when you eat small groups of people).

Once you've destroyed all of the Scumlabs facilities in the world, you end up in the town of "Toxic Hollow," where you face a mutated form of Eustace DeMonic that bounces around the level and knocks into you whenever you get in his way. You can defeat him by either jumping on his head or flying-kicking him enough times to where he collapses into a big pile of guts but it's not required that you do so in order to move on. Once you've destroyed Toxic Hollow, you move on to the final level, which "Luna Tech," Scumlabs' base on the moon. Everything here is basically the same as it was on Earth, only the architecture and vehicles are all futuristic and space-oriented, with people wearing astronaut-like suits, space probes sitting on the ground, and satellites floating above the buildings (note how, in the background, the Earth has a chunk bitten out of it, like the game's logo). Flying saucers are a common enemy here, as are the flamethrower-wielding soldiers with jetpacks, a laser jet, a Beelzeborg, and another monstrous Eustace DeMonic (I don't know if this is meant to be the same one or if it's a clone). The disappointing is that it's the final level and yet, it's no different from any of the others; again, you need only destroy everything in order to win, and there's no big, epic boss battle to wrap things up, save for killing the monstrous DeMonic again, which isn't even required. It's anticlimactic and lackluster in my opinion. In any case, after you've won and entered your initials into the game's scoring system, the game ends on a cinematic of Dr. Elizabeth Veronica (who's wearing quite a sexy spacesuit) landing on the moon's surface in a space shuttle and attempting to kill the monsters with a laser cannon that deploys from her ship's back. However, all it does is shrink them down to a small size and they manage to make their way into the shuttle and surround her. Whatever happens next is left to your imagination.

The game is pretty limited in terms of its music, which was done by Frank Linseisen and Matt Schneider, who also worked on the game's sound and the latter of whom was a programmer and had a hand in the artwork. There are four main cues for the game: this big, epic-sounding, adventurous main theme that plays over the main menu, the bonus level journeys to other countries, and during the game's ending cinematic; a sort of serious, urgent piece that plays during the first level and when you first arrive in a foreign country; and two other rocking level themes, one of which is kind of subdued while the other goes all out. There are a couple of other pieces of music here and there, like for the other bonus levels, but those are the ones that stick out and they're fine enough but it would have been nice to have a little more variety. The sound design is in the same boat: what's there sounds good, like the screams of the people you eat and when they fall out of windows, the explosions, the sound of crumbling buildings, and the sounds of the weapons firing, but it's pretty limited. There are some memorable sounds that you hear when you get one of the special items, like a gong for More Power, a bell-tower chiming for Security, and high-pitched dings for the others. As expected, the music and sound come across much better in the arcade version.

While it's best played with friends, Rampage: World Tour is still enjoyable if you play it by yourself, as the sheer simplicity of the game, where your only goal is to smash and eat everything and everyone you come across, makes it inherently enjoyable and very easy to just pick up and play. It has three cool monsters to choose from, a colorful, cartoonish art-style that's akin to claymation, there are funny details to the levels that you can find if you look for them, different ways to go about smashing buildings, various and interesting items to go for, enemies that range from mere pests to be genuine threats, and it's kind of cool to go around the world to various cities and completely level them. However, it's a game that's best played in small doses, as the repetitive nature of the levels, both in their mechanics and their overall designs, can make you burn out if you play for too long and it's a shame that the designers didn't do more to differentiate them and make them feel like the cities they're meant to represent. What's more, the music and sound design, while nice, is a little limited and the game's ending is lackluster and anything but epic, which I think is a mistake for any action-adventure game, no matter the gameplay style. But, in the end, if you want to just turn your brain off and kill some time, you could do far worse, and if you have a couple of friends over, then crack some beers, get some pizza, and go to town!