Midway's arcade conversions have been a dime a dozen on nearly any platform capable of gaming these days. Sega has taken on this strategy as well and they are one now one of the more profitable gaming companies. So far, only the earliest of Midway's colossal coin-op arcade gallery has emerged on the Pocket PC. While titles like Defender, Robotron or Spyhunter have achieved canonical status in the history of arcade games, Midway's subsequent titles are probably more memorable to the bulk of the public if only for their immediacy to us time-wise. Indeed, the subsequent franchises like NBA Jam or Mortal Kombat are the ones that truly made Midway popular at the arcades. Because of advances in graphics and sound, Rampage ranks amongst Midway's premier franchises.
It is now customary to expect a solid translation by iobox of Midway's arcade standbys. We don't question whether iobox can do it right. After landing the Midway library, iobox has done a splendid job, keeping much of the arcade feel and options to create convincing titles that mirror the source material well. Rampage does not buck this trend any, except it adds virtual buttons to cater to the deficiencies of certain devices, most notably the iPAQ H3600 and H3700 devices, which cannot support simultaneous button presses. This is important because there is no stylus play in Rampage. All of the controls are dependent on the PDA buttons.
Rampage still plays the same. It has little use for complex controls anyway. Iobox cleverly carries forth the quarter experience of old. To get more credits, you simply insert more quarters like an arcade emulator; a small touch to retain that nostalgic authenticity.
Playing as one of three radioactively enhanced monsters, the whole objective of the game on any given level is to pummel buildings to the ground; a prospect that should be fun to almost any non-pacifist male. Rampage is replete with a number of powerups found through building windows. You can get electrocuted by electric outlets. You can eat people while they're showering in their bathtubs or find food in someone's apartment. You can stomp on tanks. You can jump off a building to do a flying punch against helicopters. It sounds very repetitive but like most Midway franchises at that time (Gauntlet comes to mind), it somehow is fun even if the objective of the game rarely changes throughout its many levels.
The graphics are taken straight from the source material without any change. Rampage is a very colorful game unlike the other iobox conversions. It's shown exclusively in a landscape horizontal fashion to keep all the aspect ratio of the original. But the actual monsters themselves are small in comparison to their surroundings. These are supposed to be menacing creatures in the vein of Godzilla and King Kong but on your handheld, they are little more than overgrown zoo animals.
Another complaint I had was in the sound effects. To sum it up succinctly: they lack bass. A gunshot from a GI grunt is about as loud and deafening as the sound of a crumbling building degrading a player's sense of accomplishment.
Here iobox must have come to an impasse. With the recent release of 'digitally remastered' PC titles trying to cash in on what the movie industry has done for years with DVDs, should authenticity of source material be modified for new platforms? In the case of Rampage, it's my opinion that this would have helped make it into a more compelling title. To enhance the size and quality of the monster graphics would help turn the game into a more satisfying rampage. Furthermore, a re-recording of the sound effects, commonplace for remastered movies and games, would also have made Rampage more appealing.
In spite of a host of features that we would only expect from home-brewed arcade emulators, iobox also omitted one significant factor that made Rampage and Midway's similar games fun. That's the multiplayer component. Unlike other coin-op arcade titles, where multiplayer simply meant people played in turn to compete against high scores, Rampage was the beginning of new titles that let multiple players (in this case, up to three) compete or co-operate in finishing the game. This is a very big omission. It may not be noticeable on other titles but in Rampage, it is something that certainly does not go without notice.
How would Rampage support multiplayer? Would iobox need to open up the source code to fit in some wireless play? Those questions aren't for me to answer but I'll point out an example of dedication some publishers have made into modernizing their old libraries. Konami, for example, has done a splendid job in doing this for its libraries. It added multiplayer to its GBA conversions even when multiplayer didn't exist before. Titles like Rush 'n Attack had multiple players (all on the same machine) but was enabled to support multiple GBAs. Other titles like Time Pilot, Frogger, Yie Ar Kung Fu had brand new multiplayer functions incorporated. Someone must've spent time to go through the old code. Sadly, no one has done so for Rampage.
Despite this omission, Rampage is a solid conversion in its own right. You'll just have to settle for playing it solo and it shouldn't be difficult because the game allows you unlimited free play with a host of features to tweak. There's little that iobox does wrong, except maybe for the mandatory virtual buttons. The developers can certainly charge a premium price for it without any feelings of guilt. However, there's more it could do but if playing with someone else was not on your agenda anyway, Rampage is a fun game to add to your Pocket PC library. For me, at the very least, it was a lot better than whipping out Solitaire to pass time, even if it meant both hands on the PDA.
[08/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer