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.
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.
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.
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.