Review: River Raid (Atari 2600)

In this review, we throw on a scarf as we get ready to play the Atari 2600 game River Raid. We find out how well this top down shooter game plays.

This game was released in 1982.

You basically play a jet aircraft on a suicide mission. You travel down a never-ending river destroying as many targets as possible. Each destructible object you destroy nets you points. You can destroy battleships, helicopters, jet aircraft, and bridges.

Being that you are an airplane, you also have a limited amount of fuel. As you fly along, you use up this fuel supply. That’s where the fuel depots come in. As you fly over them, you’ll gain a fuel again, allowing you to fly longer. You can also shoot these fuel depots for points, but you’ll end up losing the ability to re-fuel your plane. If you run out of fuel, the plane will crash.

The challenge is that not only will you have planes flying across the screen, but also, the boats and helicopters will randomly start moving side to side within the river itself. This makes it not only more difficult to hit them, but it also means that there’s an even greater chance of colliding into them.

The game is divided up into different levels. A destructible bridge indicates a new level. If you crash your plane, then you’ll respawn at the last bridge you flew past. In total, you have three lives to work with before it is game over.

One thing that really helps increase survival is the ability to slow down and speed up. It takes a bit to accelerate and slow down, but you can evade certain obstacles such as a sharp angle in the river itself.

One criticism I have of this game is that there isn’t a lot in the way of game play variety. By this, I mean there aren’t a whole lot of different opponents to be had. I think what might have helped in this regard is the inclusion of, say, random obstacles like a tree branch hanging from the side of the river. An increase in the different kinds of enemies you might encounter might also have helped. Another thing that would have helped with this variety is the inclusion of a few military installations that you can shoot for bonus points. As it stands now, bridges are the only structure in the game you destroy. Still, given how much action is on the screen already, this is ultimately only a minor critique of the game and not a huge problem in this game.

My understanding is that this game uses procedural programming to generate the enemies. While the first level, I found, was the same in every play, every level after did seem different. This made this game much more interesting because every play, assuming you can beat the first level, will always be different. I certainly liked this concept here as it kept the game interesting.

Generally speaking, this game is nicely done. It has randomly produced levels that keep play interesting. The game is challenging, but it also gives you a chance to understand the basics at the same time. The variety of targets and enemies might be a bit lacking, but the game will still offer up plenty of challenge for players. It did cause me to keep coming back for more.

Graphically speaking, this game was nicely done. Everything was clearly drawn. The boats might be slightly oddly shaped, but considering the other games out on the market at the time of this release, this is a very minor criticism. The fuel depot’s were clear to understand and the colors chosen worked well. For an Atari 2600 game at the time, I thought the graphics were great.

There was no music in the game, but the audio was nicely done. Not only does the game provide some good sound effects, but it was also useful in telling the player information as well. Even though there is a fuel gauge indicating how much fuel you have, you aren’t necessarily always looking at the bottom of the screen. That makes the sounds so useful. If you fly over a fuel depot, there will be a lower beeping noise to indicate that you are fueling up your plane. If your plane is completely full of fuel, a higher beeping noise will tell you that as you fly over the depot. If you run low, there is a warning sound indicating such. So, really, top marks on the sound effects. Would have liked to see some sort of jingle or music at the beginning, though.

Overall, this was a great play. It has great gameplay that will get you coming back for more, nicely done graphics and good sound effects. Could have used a little bit of added variety like obstacles, more enemies, and maybe even destructible buildings, but that’s a fairly minor thing given how much action happens on screen in the first place. This game gets a thumbs up from me.

Furthest point in game: Top score: 9380

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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