Cult (in other words, it didn't make much money, but those who played it loved it) Tengen coin-op Rampart is one of many games based on Tetris with a few elements added in an attempt to create something entirely new. Most attempts at such video game Frankensteinery end in mediocrity: a beaten-up Ford Escort will always be a beaten-up Ford Escort no matter how many bits are bolted on or how wide the wheels are. But when you're working from as solid a base as Tetris, it's difficult to go wrong - and Tengen didn't. Adding guns, battleships and a ruthlessly unforgiving two-player mode, they created a new game that stands up proudly.
So what's it all about then? Well, you're in charge of an army's fortifications and you have an enemy - in one-player mode the enemy is your Amiga and in two-player mode it's a buddy. The game screen is a plan view of your castle keep, the walls surrounding it and more keeps set along a stretch of coast. Out on the water, a small armada polishes its cannon and waits. There are three phases to each round of the game, the first of which is cannon placement. At the start of each round you are allocated a number of cannon to place within your castle walls: the number you are allocated depends on how well you did in the previous round, but normally it's one, two or three. If you don't have enough space to place your allotted cannon, tough.
Phase two is the fun bit. This is where all hell breaks loose and for one glorious minute you get to guide a targeting cursor around the screen with a view to hammering the hell out of the enemy ships with all your cannon. The idea is to simply destroy all the computer's ships, plus any troops that may come ashore to disrupt phase three: putting right the damage done by enemy cannon and creating more space for your own firepower. This is where the Tetris element appears.
A series of multi-shaped blocks appear on screen. You rotate them, position them and then drop them in an effort to replace those sections of wall destroyed by your opponent. You don't actually have to exactly copy your original battlements, but merely make sure that there is no break in your keep's surrounds. If you don't complete all your repairs in the time limit then you lose a life. If you succeed you can use any remaining seconds to attempt expanding your castle walls to encompass a larger area for extra cannon placement.
In two-player mode you blow hell out of the walls of a friend's castle: a friend similarly engaged in trying to build as large a fortification as possible while blowing yours up.
When the dust settles
And that's it, really - the attrition continues until all lives are lost. Doesn't sound much does it? Well, for the time the novelty lasts Rampart makes a fast, frantic and highly addictive two-player game. There are only three niggles: one-player mode is largely dull (just use as training for two-player battles); second, once one player gets the advantage in a two-player game it's practically impossible for the other player to turn the tables; and third, the game is over just too quickly - there could have been more levels, maybe the chance to upgrade to different weapons, or even a deeper strategic bent to it. But Rampart certainly isn't a bad game. It's worth investigating for a spot of two-player, Tetris-inspired fun.
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