Rampart is an arcade game, released in 1990 by Atari Games combining a shoot-em-up, and puzzle section. At a time when arcades were beginning to devote themselves more and more to both Final Fight and Street Fighter-style fighting games, Rampart bucked that trend by offering play more reminiscent of the classic ages of arcade gaming. It is also one of the most widely-ported video games in existence, with versions for most contemporary systems.
In the game, the player is in control of a set of castles, which they must defend, by alternately shooting at attacking ships, and repairing any damage done to them within a time limit. Surrounding his castle is a wall, made up of small blocks, completely surrounding a region of the board. This area is considered the player's territory, and it may contain one or more castles, and any number of cannons. The maintenance of this territory is the primary focus of the game.
Description (single player game)
The single-player game consists of up to six levels, where the ultimate aim is to destroy a fleet of attacking ships, whilst repairing any breaching they cause in your fort.
At the start of each stage, the player decides of the location of their fort, from a number of options. This is then surrounded by a wall, to form the castle, which the player can then place cannons within. After this an attacking round commences, followed by a repair round, where any damage to the castle must be repaired. If the player manages to survive the repair phase, he is given a short amount of time to place additional cannons within the walls of his fort, after which the battle resumes.
This cycle continues until either the player fails a repair round, or enough ships in the enemy's fleet are sunk. When the opposing navy has been sufficently depleted the level is won, and the player may then choose another level from the island map.
Phase One: "Prepare for Battle"
In an attacking round, the player and enemy ships fire at each other using their respective cannons. The player can sink the enemy ships, whilst the enemy can destroy parts of the player's perimeter. Enemy ships move around while they fire, making it necessary to lead your target ala Missile Command.
Ships come in three types:
- Single-sailed ships shoot at your walls and move around, but do little else. It takes two shots to sink one.
- Double-sailed ships require three hits to sink, and if they reach the shore they deposit grunts, small tank-like objects, that multiply and move around during the repair phase. They can be shot with cannons and destroyed by surrounding them with walls, but they tend to get in the way and are capable of destroying castles if left unchecked.
- Red ships can take several hits, and their shots leave fiery craters whenever they strike a wall. These craters must be built around during the repair phase, and each persist for a random number of rounds.
Later levels feature "dark" versions of each of these ships, which are each capable of taking one additional hit before sinking.
Phase Two: "Build and Repair"
In the repair round the player must repair the damage done to the wall surrounding his territory. They are presented with a random series of shapes, and must place them on the island, to keep their castles surrounded by walls, within a time-limit. While superficially similar to Tetris shapes, these pieces have much greater variety, ranging from 1 by 1 squares that can fit almost anywhere to big plus and U-shapes. The pieces do not fall, but may be moved freely around the screen and placed in any spot that does not overlap something already on the board (walls, water, castles, cannons, grunts, craters or the edge of the board).
At the start of the Repair phase, all the territory that is so damaged that there is no longer a complete, unbroken wall around it is lost. By placing wall pieces, the player attempts to "capture" territory by completing a wall around it. Before the timer expires, the player must have completed a wall around at least one castle (which may not be his original, or "home" castle) or he loses. It is also advantageous to capture previously-placed cannons, as only cannons within the player’s territory may be used in the subsequent battle phase.
Phase Three: "Place Cannons"
After a successful repair round, the player may gain extra cannons (the number depending on the amount of territory gained, and the number of castles captured) to be placed in their territory.
Description (multiplayer game)
When playing with two or three players the game is similar, except that instead of fighting against enemy ships, the players each have their own area of land separated by a river, and they shoot at each other’s walls. In multiplayer mode cannons can be destroyed if they take enough hits, there are bonus squares that are worth extra points when captured, and there are no grunts or craters, but the game is otherwise similar.
Players shoot at each other’s walls during the Battle phase and try to make it difficult for them to survive the next repair round. If a player is unable to repair his wall he must "continue," expending a credit, to remain in the game, but cannot continue more than four times. The last player remaining is the winner. If all the players remain in the game for an operator-adjustable number of rounds, they are notified with "Final Battle" at the start of the last combat phase, and if there isn’t a clear winner at the end of the following repair phase, the winner is determined based on score.
Single-player Rampart is notoriously difficult, and few people have won even on its easiest settings. The game only allows players to "continue," extending their game by inserting more money, a few times during each session, so only very skilled players will ever complete the final "island" board, which has only two castles.
The unique thing about Rampart is how every element of the game interacts with the others in subtle ways. It's generally easier to capture an unowned castle than repair the wall around a starting castle, but without the benefit of the home castle’s cannons the player will have a tough time of things. Building close to the water will allow the player better aim, and to get more shots off during battle (each cannon may only have one cannonball in the air at once), but enemy ships will also get more shots, and castles close to the water are more vulnerable to grunts. Castles far away from the water will be shot at marginally less, but are more prone to having places where the player might need a 1 by 1 piece to repair a wall. Building more cannons gives the player more shots in battle, but once placed cannons cannot be removed, and too many cannons can make it almost impossible to survive a repair phase. All of these tradeoffs are what give Rampart its charm, but they also make it difficult to master.
Rampart has been ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Atari Lynx, PC and Macintosh platforms, separate versions for Game Boy and Game Boy Color, and also separate versions for the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Famicom. The arcade version of Rampart is also included in the Midway Arcade Treasures compilation, available for the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles. Note that most of the home versions of Rampart change the game in non-trivial ways. This article concerns itself most with the arcade version.
- KLOV entry on Rampart (http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?letter=&game_id=9263)
- ClassicGaming.com article on Rampart (http://www.classicgaming.com/rotw/rampart.shtml)