Review: Paperboy/Rampage (Game Boy Advance)

Review: Paperboy / Rampage (GBA)
Developer: DSI Games
Distributor: DSI Games
Genre: Action Compilation
Release Date: 8/21/05

Paperboy. Rampage. Two classic games that have made their way into a compilation on the Game Boy Advance. That’s quite a treat.

Classic games aren’t called classics because they are old or from systems that have long since left the store shelves… No, they are classics because they helped to define an entire generation of gamers. In many cases, they helped to revolutionize gaming in general. Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Asteroids, Duck Hunt, and many others paved helped to pave the way for the games we have today.

Paperboy and Rampage can both be labeled as classics. They immediately took arcades by storm upon their release in the mid 1980s, and later received treatments on most major gaming systems such as the Commodore 64, Amiga, Sega Master System, and Nintendo Entertainment System. Later incarnations have even appeared on the Playstation and Nintendo 64.

But twenty years later, do these games still hold up? Or have they merely become fond memories of a lost childhood?


1. STORY

Old arcade games have never been known for their stories, and what little exposition you got was just to give you a reason for your actions in the game. The same is true here.

Rampage: George, Lizzie, and Ralph were all normal people, until one day they each encountered something that turned them into fifty foot tall rampaging monsters. A giant ape, lizard, and wolf respectively. In their new forms they set out to destroy every major city in North America from Baltimore to Los Angeles, all the while fending off the militaries bombardment of helicopters, tanks, and snipers.

Paperboy: You play a young paperboy charged with delivering papers to each of your subscriber’s houses. Taking to the streets on your trusty bike, you have to avoid the various obstacles in the neighborhood while keeping your customers happy. But if you mess up and everyone cancels, you’re fired!

See what I mean? Not overly deep are they? But then, you didn’t play these games for their intricate plotlines, but simply to have fun.

Story Rating: 2/10


2. GRAPHICS

The graphics for both games are identical to their arcade counterparts from the 1980s. This basically means that you’re using about 3% of the GBA’s processing power to render the various levels and sprites.

On the other hand, this is a straight port of two classic games, and they were pushing the limits of what technology could do at the time. And while they may look bland by today’s standards, they are still pretty sharp.

The characters in both games are fairly well detailed for the time, and contain a good amount of individual animation. Colors are especially bright and vibrant in Paperboy, but more subdued in Rampage due to its destructive gameplay. Even on the GBA’s small screen, you will have no problem seeing what is going on around you.

Sure, it’s not Halo… but for a straight port from the arcades, you couldn’t ask for better.

Graphics Rating: 9/10


3. SOUND

Again, sounds for both games are identical to their arcade counterparts. No orchestral score, no blaring effects from the sound stage, just pure old school midi goodness.

Each game has its share of sounds. In Rampage, you’ll hear plenty of smashes and crashes as you demolish buildings and watch them tumble to the ground. Additionally, you’ll hear tanks rumble along on the ground as they fire at you, helicopter blades wiz by on a dive bombing run, and explosions from demolition experts trying to take you down with the building you’re on. Music is minimal, with the occasional piece floating up between levels, but who can forget the main score? I can hear it running through my head right now.

Paperboy is the exact opposite with no explosions or destruction… well, except when you send a paper through a subscriber’s window anyway. Instead what you get is the sound of dogs barking, cars zooming by on the street, and the occasional crash of your bike as you plow into a mailbox. Paperboy also contains some rudimentary voices that either cheer you on or wince when you slam into something. As with Rampage, music is minimal, but every now and then you’ll get to hear a little clip between stages and such.

The sounds and music for both games are true to their arcade originals, and were top notch for their day. And as with the graphics, accuracy to the original is what really counts here.

Sound Rating: 8/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

Both Rampage and Paperboy hearken back to a day when if you sucked at a game, it was simply because you sucked. Not because the controls were terrible. The same holds true here, with a slight exception which I will mention below.

Rampage: As a giant monster, your goal is to destroy everything and anything in sight. Using the control pad you can lumber along the street or climb up and down buildings while using the B button to jump and the A button to punch in the direction you are pressing the control pad.

Destroying buildings is simple… climb up the side, and begin smashing it with your fists. Once you do enough damage to it, the building will crumble to the ground. However, the military will attempt to stop you, and each hit you take from a sniper, helicopter, or tank will slowly deplete your life. Once your life bar disappears, you transform back into your human state and slink off to hide. You get a decent number of continues though, which can increase based on the points you score.

While destroying buildings, keep an eye out for objects that will appear. Things such as bank safes will increase your score, while eating screaming woman and turkey dinners can replenish your life bar.

Once you have destroyed every building in the level, you’ll move on to the next one. This is repeated until you run out of continues. Basically there is no end to the game. You just keep playing and playing until you can’t play anymore. And when you play again, your goal is to beat your previous score.

Paperboy: Paperboy actually has the unique perspective of playing at an angle. Without touching the control pad, your character will move up the street at roughly sixty degrees. Using the control pad you can steer your bike, but the controls are somewhat limited. Pressing up is roughly the same as turning left and going at a 90 degree angle, while pressing right will send you off at about a thirty degree angle. Part of the challenge is getting used to this unique control scheme.

Once you’ve got movement down, you can use the A button to speed up or the B button to break, while either the L or R buttons will chuck a newspaper. With proper timing and a little luck, you can manage to land a newspaper right in your subscriber’s mailbox or on their front door, thus keeping them happy. Or you can go with the more aggressive route of throwing papers through their windows and earning a destruction bonus.

Besides delivering papers, you’ll need to avoid various obstacles on the street. These range from dogs and cats to remote control trucks and full sized cars. Maneuvering your bike is tricky enough, and avoiding all the crap on the sidewalk make things even tougher.

If you manage to make it to the end of the street without losing all your continues, you’ll get a chance to try the training course, which involves avoiding various objects on a dirt course while attempting to knock down targets with your papers. Crashing once here ends the level, but fortunately doesn’t take away from your lives. It simply serves as extra points.

Now then, we come to the slight exception to the controls that I mentioned earlier, and this has directly to do with Paperboy. For me, at least, throwing papers with the L or R triggers just didn’t feel right. Most of the time, because of the way I would have to hold my hand, I ended up accidentally steering into an object while attempting to land a paper in the right place. This is the only aspect of the controls that just doesn’t seem to translate to the GBA very well, as everything else for both games is spot on.

Overall, both games have a solid control scheme and enjoyable gameplay. They aren’t as lengthy or as in depth as many of today’s games, but they still manage to hold their own after all these years, which is a true testament to their status as classic games.

Control and Gameplay Score: 8/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Both Rampage and Paperboy are infinitely replayable for the simple reason that they have no ending! You just keep going and going until you run out of lives and continues. The only real goal is to score more points.

Because of this, the real reward in replaying these games is to set goals for yourself and to work on accomplishing those. The game will not reward you itself other than with hours of entertainment. So really, the replayability with either game is purely in the hands of the gamer.

For me, these games are moderately replayable. They are the kind of games that I will sit down and play for a few hours, then put away for a while, only to come back again when that familiar feeling of nostalgia begins washing over me. Others might play the game once or twice and then never give it a second glance. And yet others might continually push themselves to score more and more points for years at a time.

However, the potential to replay these games until the day you die is certainly there.

Replayability Score: 7/10


6. BALANCE

Remember how I mentioned that if you suck at playing these games it’s because you actually do suck as opposed to a flaw in the controls? Well, that’s mostly true.

These games are also very hard. Paperboy especially, even on the easiest of the games three difficulty levels.

But then again these games are supposed to be hard. Sure, the first few levels of Rampage might be a breeze, but as you continue on, more and more enemies show up to knock you down to your original size. The same is true for Paperboy… Easy mode isn’t too bad, but once you start getting into medium and hard, you’re in for a real test of your skill.

These games were known as much for their enjoyable gameplay as for the need for players to practice, practice, and practice some more to get high scores. Hell, you may even have been one of those kids in the arcades in the 80s that just keep tossing nickels, dimes, or quarters into the machine in order to place you initials in the number one spot.

The bottom line? Don’t expect these games to hold your hand. They are tough and merciless, and will leave your character lying in a pool of their own blood. You’ve gotta love it.

Balance Score: 3/10


7. ORIGINALITY

Umm, hello!? McFly!? These games are the originals! These were the games that defined most of the games that came after them. Sure, they borrowed elements from the games that came before them, but Rampage and Paperboy were light years ahead of most of their contemporaries.

The only strike against these two for originality is the number of remakes and ports that are out there today. Rampage actually showed up in this exact same form on the Midway Arcade Treasures set from two years ago. However, Paperboy has been a bit more obscure, and hasn’t seen a remake or port in quite some time.

These games are called classics for a reason, and it still shows today. It just happens that this particular collection isn’t necessarily the only place where you will find them.

Originality Score: 7/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

This is going to be a tough one to call. On the one hand, you have the retro gamers… those who grew up in the 80s and look back on these two games fondly. Those particular players are likely to view this compilation as crack on a cartridge.

On the other hand, you have the newer generation of gamers. You know, the ones that the rest of us continually tell that in our days we only had one cheat code available to us for Contra? Sure, they may recognize Rampage and Paperboy as classics, but will they find them as addictive as the rest of us? Probably not. They’ll sit down for a while, play the games a few times, and then let the cartridge sit on the shelf collecting dust while they go back to playing Final Fantasy XXXVII or Gran Turismo 12. After all, it’s hard for a game from the 80s to compete with the stereo sound and near life-like realism of today’s fare.

However, I think that there are enough folks out there, young and old alike, who will enjoy this collection, so let’s split the difference.

Addictiveness: 5/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Retro gamers? Check. Children of the 80s? Check. Anyone who has an original Nintendo sitting in their basement? Check. Anyone looking for a solid game for under $20? Check.

These two games are looked back upon fondly by a large portion of the gaming population, and as such, is sure to appeal to many players. As with the addictiveness factor above though, younger gamers will be less likely to be interested in these old school classics.

But maybe, if we’re lucky, parents will be willing to introduce their children to these gems instead of the newest Grand Theft Auto game.

Appeal Factor Score: 5/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

Speaking of price, did you know that you can pick this compilation up for a paltry $15? For that matter, a lot of online stores are selling it for only $10! Two classics for only $10! Only $5 each! That’s much more reasonable than shelling out $20 for Legend of Zelda or Metroid.

Placing these two games on the GBA is also a great move in my mind, as these are the kinds of games that someone on the go can easily sit down and play for a few minutes while waiting on the bus or during their lunch break.

Other compilations have come out recently, including Centipede/Breakout/Warlords and Risk/Battleship/Clue. We can only hope that this trend of bringing out GBA cartridges with multiple classics on them for cheap will continue, as it is a great way to stock up on some wonderful titles from years gone by.

And as for Rampage/Paperboy? My suggestion is to go and pick it up. If you played the game back in the day, hopefully you’ll get as much enjoyment out of it as you once did. And if you are new to these gems, perhaps you’ll be able to see what all the excitement was about back in the 80s.

Miscellaneous Score: 7/10


THE SCORES

Story: 2
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay/Control: 8
Replayability: 7
Balance: 3
Originality: 7
Addictiveness: 5
Appeal Factor: 5
Miscellaneous: 7
Overall: 61
Final Score: 6.0 (Fair)