Sporting an irresistibly colourful box and a tempting budget price, Rampage Puzzle Attack is one of those games that you’ve probably never heard of, but which catches your eye hidden away in a musty corner of your local game shop. At least, that’s what happened to me – a regular occurrence driven by instinct which rarely lets me down. It didn’t let me down on this occasion either – the cartridge has now been happily sitting in my beloved GBA for the best part of a week with no sign of budging.
See, Rampage Puzzle Attack is a puzzle game (as per the title) – a genre to which I am blissfully addicted. It is a genre which suits the GBA console perfectly; these are games which you can pick up and play for ten minutes here and there just as comfortably as filling an entire lengthy journey with an unashamed playfest. This particular title fits the mold perfectly, being as it is both easy to learn and difficult to complete. You can very simply learn to play this game in seconds, making it an excellent time-filler which is never quite absorbing enough to completely kill your social life.
The game play itself is standard puzzle fare. Coloured blocks fall onto other coloured blocks, gradually stacking up towards the top of the screen. The layout involves a series of levels, increasing in difficulty as you progress, each containing a load of blocks in a set pattern at the bottom and a single row of other blocks at the top. Dropping blocks from the top is the key to winning – every now and then, a flashy looking block will appear in the midst of this row, and these are vital to the game. The aim is to clear each level by eliminating the stacked blocks using the correspondingly coloured flashing diamonds to blow up all the blocks of the same colour that they hit. Simply put: flashy blocks blow up non-flashy blocks and non-flashy blocks need to be blown up to win, preferably quite fast.
The levels all start with an arrangement of blocks laying at the bottom section of the grid. Blocks of the same colour merge together, and for the purposes of scoring, count as one block. A single row of individual blocks lies at the top of the grid, and you must select a pairing of these to fall to the bottom each time you make a move. You can move single blocks from side to side by manically swapping them with their neighbours to get the pair you want in the required positions, and this is essential to successful play. Fortunately, the controls are extraordinary simple and work very well, which helps tremendously.
Perhaps the easiest aspect of game play is that the blocks will not fall from the row at the top of the screen down to the playing field below until you direct them to do so. Additionally, since only one mode (I’ll get to those later) has a clock ticking down to zero as you play, this means that the game is somewhat lacking in tension, which is usually one of the fundamental aspects of a successful puzzle game, with few exceptions. As it might be therefore expected, this is moderately detrimental to the experience of playing this game, but the rest of the game does manage to go some way to making up for this.
There is a decent amount of varied gameplay here to retain the player’s interest. In single player mode, there are three different modes (Clear, Rescue and Puzzle) offering different types of challenges revolving around the same basic gameplay premise. Overall, there are fifty levels for each mode, and they are all different – huge for a GBA puzzle game. There is also a two-player mode available, which I have not yet tried. Clear Mode is a standard game whereby the only aim is to remove all blocks from the grid, ideally gaining a nice hefty score in the process. Rescue Mode involves clearing all the blocks from the top of a cage at the bottom of the screen within the allocated time limit – the time limits are set fairly high, although in a couple of levels it is quite easy to make some costly mistakes and a game over in this case is not unknown. Puzzle mode is my own preferred one – you are given a limited quantity of chances to drop blocks from the top, and have to clear all colored blocks within this drop limit, focusing on strategy rather than points. Indeed, there is no timer on screen at all in this mode.
Oh, and there are monsters. Why they are included is a little unclear (although this game does have links with an old arcade hit called “Rampage” which involved them)… They add nothing to the game whatsoever, although they do provide a convenient thing to rescue when playing in Rescue Mode. It would have worked just as well with alpacas, to be honest. In fact, I’d have really preferred them. Such charming creatures. Nice to see a story in a puzzle game though – they’re always so half-hearted and tacked-on that they’re really an amusing feature once you stop paying any real attention to them. Since this doesn’t need a story at all, it’s something of a gesture on the developers’ part to put on in, and it should be thus appreciated. Something to do with rescuing monsters. So I guess they do have a purpose after all…
The appearance is excellent. Occasional cut-scenes appear whilst playing in Rescue Mode (they tried to include a story, bless ’em) and provide a pleasant interjection, but with a character who really needs to see someone about that dislocated jaw of his. The play screen is kept simple and clear (with the exception of a large monster standing right beside the play grid and occasionally performing some sort of act that can only be described as humping the side of it). The blocks all have vastly different colors which are very easy to tell from one another. Music is irritating and repetitive and really best ignored.
Despite the fact that there are so many levels, once you have mastered the game there really isn’t much to keep bringing you back. I haven’t got bored of it yet, but it has all the hallmarks of a game that I will be getting bored of in another week or so. Still, two weeks worth of playing time isn’t bad for a puzzle game. Not bad at all 🙂