Total time played: 4 Hours
Short review: A clone of Zelda II starring John Rambo, a slew of angry forest creatures, really dumb enemy soldiers and a map system that is impossible to comprehend.
Interesting links related to Rambo
As a kid I never saw the movie Rambo. My first exposure was the Rambo scene in the UHF movie starring Weird Al Yankovic, and my second exposure was the NES game Rambo.
The music in the intro to Rambo on NES holds the distinction of being one of only two games that I liked the music enough to record it onto a cassette tape and listen while not playing the game. The other game music is G.I. Joe.
Somehow I never noticed that this game is a clone of Zelda II until playing recently. The funny thing is, Rambo came out first, so, Zelda II is actually a Rambo clone. No one really talks about this game but I really enjoyed it. It has quite a few flaws and it takes a while to get the hang of using your knife but the game is fun.
Rambo consists of four separate areas even though they never really tell you when you have beaten an area. Each area allows Rambo to explore freely going either left or right and using north and south arrows to transport him to another spot on the map (I say map, but there is no in game map). This is where the biggest issue with the game is. Each mission you will talk to people who will say things like “go east” or “there is a POW north of here”. But, from what I can tell east doesn’t always mean right. So, I ended up spending 60% of the time just looking for the next village or looking for a boss to fight.
The interesting thing about the boss fights is that you don’t even have to fight them. When you beat a boss your maximum health increases by 100 but if you are good enough you can skip the fights and drastically shorten the game.
The game has a multitude of weapons that you pick up when killing enemies which consists of birds, snakes, flamingos, spiders and army men. At the beginning of the game I was excited every time I would pick up an exploding arrow or some machine gun ammo but I quickly learned that my good old trusty knife was by far the strongest weapon in the entire game. Once I learned to master using the knife with its very short range attack the game became much easier.
Rambo features some RPG elements as well. Each enemy will give you experience points which level up your weapons making them more powerful. Once your level is maxed out at 7 each subsequent level up fills your health to 100% which becomes very helpful in the fourth area of the game.
There are checkpoints throughout and you keep all of your weapons if you die but unfortunately lose any health bottles you had picked up before dying. A lot of the game is spent looking for the enemy in each level that contains the health bottle and grinding that same enemy over and over until you have maxed out your inventory.
None of the enemies or bosses posed much of a threat until the final boss. The final boss is a helicopter that rains missiles on Rambo while also sending an endless stream of bad guys in groups of two to attack Rambo. The boss requires Rambo to use grenades which up until this fight I had never once used. Once I got the hang of the grenades I was able to defeat the helicopter in only two attempts.
The game tries to present a story with recurring characters and narrative throughout but the story is pretty shallow. Luckily the gameplay is pretty fun making this game worth checking out.