One of my formative gaming experiences was with the Rampage series. Starting out with a copy on my family’s old Amiga 500, much to my parents’ chagrin, I was glued to the computer desk chomping on civilians, climbing skyscrapers, and punching my way through each town to wreak destruction. Through the years the series evolved incrementally, with Rampage: World Tour adding more speed to an aging format. Terror of Hemasaurus is the first attempt I’ve seen at recreating that magical havoc, and I was eager to dive in.
Terror of Hemasaurus’ actual gameplay should be familiar to anyone with knowledge of Rampage. You are a giant monster who goes through a series of cities where your main objective is to cause wanton destruction–destroying buildings, eating people, breaking down vehicles, and fighting off the military and police like any good kaiju would. Even more fun, you have a guttural scream that will plow through everything in your wake. The cities themselves sprawl a lot farther in size than Rampage, which made me feel like I was exploring a city center more than just a city block, with buildings ranging from gas stations to skyscrapers.
Those who remember Rampage know that the buildings were one structure that goes down all at once when it’s been punched with enough holes. Here they’re structured more like building blocks – if you punch a space, you’ll eventually crack that block, and eventually if you break the structural integrity enough it’ll tumble under its own weight and sway depending on how you’ve chipped away at it. Cars can be punted across the screen, tearing through whatever goes through their path. Police cars, military tanks, and aircraft start circling overtime which felt more like extra toys to play with than a sincere challenge. The joy I felt was palpable when I could chip away at a corner of a skyscraper until it tumbled into the next two buildings, kicking a car into the havoc, making my monster scream, and pulling down a blimp within 20 seconds.
That’s not to say the game isn’t without its faults. There’s a story mode which includes some flavor text outlining a very thin premise and the occasional boss battles. It doesn’t feel distinct enough to matter, and I found myself just wanting to go back to the arcade mode where I could skip the story dialogue. The levels, while large and expansive, do stay a bit samey throughout, which is like its predecessors but unfortunate given how much Terror of Hemasaurus has done to flesh out that skeletal gameplay. The most disappointing thing is the multiplayer. Up to four people can play at once, with different monsters to choose from. But the game doesn’t scale out to accommodate four people at once. You’re stuck with the same screen real estate and it doesn’t naturally zoom in and out based on context, so everyone’s stuck within a small space. It doesn’t take too much action on screen to bring framerate to a crawl, and when things get really messy it turns into a de facto slideshow. It can be a funny novelty but really cuts into the experience.
Terror of Hemasaurus is a great “remember when?” kind of game. The way most good indies do, it takes that foundational experience of an underserved genre and tries to flesh out the experience to make it more substantive while retaining the good feelings from playing its inspiration. But with limited gameplay options and a game which can’t handle more than one person on screen, this’ll be relegated to the “fun if you like this kind of game” category.