River Raid

River Raid
Company: Activision
Model #:
Carol Shaw
Year: 1983
Enhanced port of the 2600 game


Making a game that will live in Atari history forever isn't an easy task.  Most games simply don't appeal to everyone or have flaws that turn gamers off. River Raid is one of the few games that not only had universal appeal, but had some of the best (and most addicting) gameplay ever seen.  River Raid was so popular in fact that it was ported to the Atari 400/800, Atari 5200, Intellivision, Colecovision, IBM Pc Jr., Commodore 64, and just about every other popular system of the time that used cartridges.  River Raid set the standard for scrolling shooters, too bad most other games couldn't live up to it.


River Raid's concept is easy enough; guide your jet through a dangerous river valley while shooting down all the bad guys and bridges you can.  You'll also need to watch your fuel gauge, as your jet doesn't have a large gas tank.  To refuel, all you need to do is fly over a fuel tank and you'll magically be refueled (Ok, so they took some liberties).  You need to be care that you don't accidentally shoot the fuel tanks as your blasting away at your enemies or you'll quickly find your jet crashing into the waters below (and you can't swim!).


There are a variety of enemies to keep your trigger finger busy such as helicopters and enemy jets.  The Atari 400/800 and 5200 versions went one step further and added tanks and hot air balloons to get in your way (nothing like wiping out a balloonist to clog up your engines).  Progress in this game is measured by bridges, each time you blow up a bridge it's like hitting a checkpoint. If you die you'll start back at the last bridge you destroyed.  As you progress further and further into the game the river gets smaller and you must maneuver through tight spaces barely wider than you jet!  The enemies also become more active as they move and shoot faster.


The controls in River Raid are dead on.  You can speed up and slow down in an instant by pulling back or pressing forward on the joystick.  The movement is very crisp and doesn't have that mushy feeling (except on the 5200, but that's the joysticks fault).  This may not sound impressive, but control is very important in a game like River Raid which requires constant speed changes and quick reflexes at the higher levels.  Bad controls can ruin a great game, but luckily that's not a problem here.


Beyond the new enemies as previously mentioned balloons and tanks, the 8-Bit version added only a few minor graphical enhancements.  The banks of the river were made a bit more jagged, some moutains were added, and a band of color was added to further accent the shoreline.  The addition of Balloons don't add much to the gameplay (just another slow moving obstacle), but the tanks really add a new twist due to their unpredictable firing patterns.  It's a shame that these enemies couldn't be added to the 2600 version as well.


River Raid was a smash hit form the word Go, and helped Activision standout amongst a sea of mediocre videogame companies.  While your friends may laugh at its crudeness now, River Raid helped start a new genera in videogames; the overhead scrolling shooter.  So the next time you play a game like Radiant Silvergun, take a few moments to think back to River Raid, the game that started it all.


Version Cart Text Description
7/21/83 River Raid 7/21/83 Final Version


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