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.
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. Scrolling
was not easily done on the 2600 and required alot of skill, thankfully
Carol Shaw pulled it off. So the next time you play a game like Raiden,
think of River Raid and thank Carol for making the game that started it
||Activision AG 020 9/10/82
to 2600 Software