|Scheduled to be released
Although the Atari 5200 library is comprised of mostly action and
arcade games, Atari was apparently planning on adding a few puzzle games
to the mix. Unfortunately none of these games ever saw the light
of day, and Roadrunner is no exception. Roadrunner is a strategy
game based on the old sliding tile game and has no relation to the 1985
Atari arcade game of the same name (which the 2600 version was based on).
If Roadrunner looks familiar, it's probably because it bears a strong
resemblance to the Intellivision game Loco-Motion. In fact Roadrunner
may actually be a conversion of a failed port of Loco-Motion. For
you see at one point Atari was planning on producing Loco-Motion for the
5200 (a prototype box has even been found), but for some reason this idea
was scrapped (Mattel may have licensed it from Centuri first). So
Atari may have remade the game into Roadrunner, but without any real evidence
this is all speculation.
At the start of each level a birdseed truck will weave its way through
the maze dropping off piles of birdseed as it goes. The goal of
Roadrunner is to move the tiles around so Wiley Coyote eats as much birdseed
as he can before the Roadrunner gets it (why would Wiley eat birdseed?).
Each tile contains a portion of the road which Wiley and the Roadrunner
walk on, by sliding the tiles around you can make paths leading to the
piles of birdseed or to the tunnels on the side of the board. The
tunnels connect one side of the screen to the other, and can be useful
for warping across the screen (just like in Pac-Man). Unfortunately
some of these tunnel entrances are really just painted on (remember when
Wiley would do that in the cartoon?), so if Wiley attempts to enter one
he'll knock himself out. The only way to tell if a tunnel is real
is to watch the Roadrunner and see which tunnels he takes (he always was
smarter than Wiley).
Wiley can die if he either runs off the end of the tile
or runs into a false tunnel. The Roadrunner appears to be able to
back up from dead end track pieces and tunnels so he is impossible to
kill, but you can trap him on two dead end pieces and complete the level
at your leisure. Once all the birdseed is gone the game moves to
the next level. If you happen to run into the Roadrunner you will
score 10 points, and you the Roadrunner will be transported back to your
starting points. Wiley also scores 35 points for each tile he crosses,
and 50 points for each pile of birdseed he collects.
While the game is playable, it still needs some serious
work before being considered a finished product. There are several
odd glitches in this prototype such as the computer getting confused as
to which tile the Roadrunner is supposed to be on, so he appears to be
running off the path through the scenery. Also your score (and occasionally
the screen) doesn't show up for a few seconds after starting a new board,
and the game will freeze on occasion. There are absolutely no sounds
or music in the game except for the sound of the sliding tiles, which
can make it hard to figure out if something good or bad is happening to
you. The press kit also mentions two-player action, although as
far as I can tell this prototype is one player only. There are two
score displays on the screen with a big arrow pointing to the active player's
score however, so there may be a two player option hidden in the game
somewhere (with the second player controlling the Roadrunner perhaps?).
The choice of colors seems rather odd, with lots of pinks and purple.
While it may not be the best game for the 5200, Roadrunner
was an interesting attempt at a puzzle game (which the 5200's library
was sorely lacking). In the end Atari may have put the kibosh on
this game due to the slower than expected sales of the 5200. Atari
decided to concentrate on action and arcade games which were usually the
biggest sellers, so most of the puzzle and strategy games were quietly
cancelled. Roadrunner was due to be released Fall of 1983.
||No sounds, Slightly different colors
on the title screen
||Roadrunner Cartridge 06-03-83
||Minimal sounds added
to 5200 Software