It has some serious flaws, but I cannot help but love Mutant Rampage Bodyslam for its unabashed cheesiness, its great graphics, and its variety of imaginative enemies . . . . As it stands, Mutant Rampage Bodyslam is the best (and only) beat-’em-up title for the CD-i and a must-own title if you have that system.
Ever since I slid my first quarter into a Double Dragon arcade cabinet twenty years ago, I have been an avid fan of beat-’em-ups. The ability to team up with a friend and brawl your way through endless swarms of street thugs just never seemed to get old to me, and to this day, when I revisit old consoles, I find beat-’em-ups (along with hack-and-slashers) the games that I reach for the most. Along with the aforementioned Double Dragon, many classics arose from this genre, including Final Fight, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom, and Mutant Rampage Bodyslam.
Before you accuse me of making an error, let me assure you that I am not. I did, in fact, intend to include Mutant Rampage Bodyslam on that list. How do I dare place a CD-i brawler amongst the cream of the beat-’em-up crop? My justification follows.
First off, I did not include Mutant Rampage Bodyslam because of its gameplay. In fact, the gameplay is one of the weakest aspects of the game. The controls are fairly responsive, but the characters move slowly. Also, the hit detection is not quite as solid as it should be. Your characters have a few different moves they can pull off, but you’re likely to find yourself either jump kicking or standing still and waiting for your enemies to walk into your attacks. This game certainly does not exhibit the same complexity and fluidity of a game like Streets of Rage 2. Add to this cheap hits and difficult-to-hit enemies, and you have what can be a frustrating experience.
The music in this game is also a weak point. The game’s music isn’t all that bad, but it consists of short loops that you will hear over and over and over again. For some reason, the music will also drop out at times and have to restart, an all-too-often occurrence following the thwack you hear as your hit connects with an enemy. Sometimes, the music will drop out altogether, and you are stuck with silence until something triggers it again.
Another issue I have with this game is that it is only one player. Beat-’em-ups as a genre shine when you employ the help of at least one of your friends, but that’s not going to happen with Bodyslam. It is very much missed here, because this is a very long game, requiring several hours to complete. Perhaps the CD-i was not capable of handling the two-person action, but whatever the excuse, this title suffers for it.
So, this is sounding like a pretty bad game so far, right? Well, here’s where it begins to get better . . . or worse, depending on your viewpoint.
Mutant Rampage Bodyslam was brought to the CD-i by Animation Magic, the same folks responsible for the notorious CD-i Zelda games. While the animation in the Zelda games was undeniably primitive and unsightly, the animation in Mutant Rampage Bodyslam isn’t that bad, though you will see the same sequences repeated with different dialogue. If you search on YouTube, you’ll likely find the cut scenes from this game posted along with people lamenting how truly terrible they are. I think these folks are missing the point, and given the right perspective, the animation really adds to this game. This game is called Mutant Rampage Bodyslam, and the cut scenes are set up to be reminiscent of the pre-wrestling-match boasting to which all of us who grew up with WWF or WCW are accustomed. These cut scenes are intentionally cheesy and remind me very much of the chest-thumping I might have seen from Rowdy Roddy Piper or the Iron Sheik back in the ’80s. The mutants are even made more distinct based on the area of the world from which they originate, very much like our awareness that Rowdy Roddy was supposed to be from Scotland and the Sheik from the Middle East.
Beyond these cut scenes, what really shines in Mutant Rampage Bodyslam are the graphics. You would be hard pressed to find the sheer variety of enemies of Bodyslam in any of its contemporary beat-’em-up titles. You’ll find guys who club you with their heads, cyborgs, strong men, werewolves, centaurs, lizardmen, sumo wrestlers, ninjas, dragonmen, and all kinds of other nasties trying to put the beat down on you. What is great is that these enemies have different abilities and fighting styles, so you’re not just fighting the same types of enemies in different wrappers (which is common in some other games in this genre). A lot went into the design of the enemies in this game, and it amazes me that no one seems to give this much attention in the other reviews of this game I’ve seen.
Not only did a lot of thought go into the characters, but the backgrounds are often great as well. You won’t get the standard repeating shop fronts here . . . well, not without a fighter jet crashed into them. There are all kinds of details that make the backgrounds interesting and memorable. There really is not interaction between your character and the background elements, but the game designers did allow some interaction with the enemies, such as the way they’ll appear from behind a bar or rise from the sewers.
It has some serious flaws, but I cannot help but love Mutant Rampage Bodyslam for its unabashed cheesiness, its great graphics, and its variety of imaginative enemies. If only this game had the control and move set of Streets of Rage 2, along with that games ability for multi-player, this would compete for my favorite beat-’em-up of all time. As it stands, Mutant Rampage Bodyslam is the best (and only) beat-’em-up title for the CD-i and a must-own title if you have that system. One word of caution, though—do yourself a favor and pick up a good control pad. Without it, the game is practically unplayable.