The more I read about Rampart, the more I wanted to play it. Defend a castle from an attack from the sea, then repair it against the clock by jamming Tetris-like blocks into all the holes you now find yourself surrounded by, before plopping down some more cannons and doing it all over again.
How fun does that sound? How simple, too? That's an idea as easy to pick up as one of those rubber ducks at the carnival, and I want to play it.
Rampart, not Hook a Duck.
The Sega Mega Drive port was all I needed to get me into Rampart. There's not too much difference between it and the arcade original, though the loss of the trackball controls make for a lesser experience, supposedly. I'll take playing this in any form, trackball or not, as it is a great little game.
After choosing a starting castle and plopping down a few cannons within its walls, you are more or less immediately set upon by a number of enemy ships, their own cannons pounding your newly built city walls. Returning fire is as easy as moving the cursor to wherever you want to fire and spamming the fire button until something blows up.
Truth be told, I didn't have a lot of strategy for this section, beyond 'more is better'. There's no ammo counter or cooldown time, so why not unleash everything you can in the manic few seconds that you have available to you?
Afterwards, you enter the also-timed Build and Repair phase of the game, where random blocks of varying shapes and sizes are available for you to fix your castle and, if you can manage it, spread out a bit to accommodate more cannons later on. Not that I built thing's brilliantly in the screenshot above... I appear to be defending from imaginary land-based forces with that castle 'design'.
The cycle continues for a few rounds until you win. I think. I'm not too sure how progress is made. Sometimes I had the option of starting a new castle with upgraded cannons, other times I just kept placing lower level cannons until a victory screen. Not sure. In either case, progress means hopping into another map to do it all over again.
As well as potentially being a bit repetitive, Rampart is pretty tight about its time limits, even for beginners. It's not impossible to repair your castle before time runs out, but I'd love to be able to sit back and really plan out a proper design, rather than just shoving whichever shape is available to me into the nearest hole, just to get it filled in time.
I did try branching out towards another castle to see what would happen but didn't manage it. I'm hoping you can chain together a number of castles into a formidable defensive wall but that's an experiment for another day.
Ported across many systems, playing Rampart shouldn't be too much of a problem, and play it you must. For as much as I want it to do so much more, what it does is great fun. The timing is tight but it keeps the action up. To be fair to it, Rampart started in the arcades, and it's not a simulation by any means, so a quick pace is fine for a quick game.
The 1001 list touted the multiplayer mode for even more entertainment, so I'll have to try that at some point too, but for now, I'm perfectly content with this little castle-building cannon-firing classic.
While a trackball is said to be the better choice, some arcade cabinets for Rampart didn't offer it, notably the two player cabinets. The three player version had them, though. So I read. Not having seen one in person to confirm...
Rampart, developed by Atari Games, first released in 1990.
Version played: Sega Mega Drive, 1991, via emulation.