Saturday, June 13, 2020

River Raid

Let's play with Carol...

For those living under a rock the last few decades, River Raid was developed by Carol Shaw for the Atari 2600 and is a vertical-scrolling shoot 'em up. It was ported to other machines like the C64, Intellivision and ZX Spectrum (the latter being what I played throughout the 80s). I thought this game rocked and it's only now, thanks to using OpenEmu, that I've had my eyes opened by the original. Wow, the differences are staggering!

Okay, we're flying up the River Of No Return which is endless so split into handy sections, divided by bridges. Viewed from a top-down perspective, we fly under the radar and shoot anything that gets in our way - but stay over the water because the land results in our humiliating destruction!! (Really?). The controls are superb and dead easy: we can alter our speed by pushing up to go faster and pulling back to slowdown. Left/Right skims over the water using an awesome level of inertia and allows us to dodge the enemies we foolishly left alive.

Testing your skills and dexterity are many enemies: helicopters, planes, tanks and more (depending on the conversion). Kill everything using missiles and clear the way for a smooth flight up the river. Fuel can be replenished from neglected tankers or you could blast 'em to smithereens for lots of extra points? Yup, that's about as complex as this shooter gets - survive as long as you can whilst killing anything dumb enough to get in your way!

River Raid appears to have its fair share of lovers and haters but I love it. It's such a thrilling blast without complicated mechanics or pointless objectives. However, others feel this simplistic approach can become tedious - but they're weirdos. Enjoy what is nothing less than a fantastic and timeless shoot 'em up. Okay, let's play...

- ATARI 2600 -

As this is the original, I was expecting a fascinating blaster beyond anything I'd previously experienced and that's exactly what I got. Visually, it's a typical 2600 with bland backgrounds and enemies made from Lego. Okay, I'm forgetting how ahead of its time this wooden slab of late 70s technology is because everything moves fast and smooth. The sound effects are grungy and raspy which is perfect for the engines and explosions.

Wow, this is so incredibly playable with well-balanced gameplay and great controls. It just feels right and obliterates the ZX Spectrum game that I grew up playing - so I'm now looking into time-travel technology. Sigh...

This is the best version of River Raid that I have ever played. Simple as that.

- ATARI 5200 -

I had high hopes from Atari's SuperSystem but there is very little to separate this conversion from the original. Sure, the graphics have been improved using rugged landscapes so the river is more interesting thanks to the contours of the shoreline. This design works well and helps pilots like me to survive longer, which is great because there are now lots of extra enemies. Plus what's better than blasting a bridge just as a tank is crossing over?

Sadly, I preferred the controls of the original but I'm not entirely sure why. The 5200 lacked something and God only knows how I'd cope using the machine's analogue stick! Don't get me wrong, this is a great conversion but something about the original kept dragging me back and I cannot say the same for the 5200. Close, but no cigar.


It's sad that River Raid never graced the Atari ST. However, there might be light at the end of this tunnel of disappointment, thanks to a game by REIsoft called (wait for it) River Of No Return. It was developed by Jürgen Reichenwallner using SEUCK and is described as a rescue mission with a military theme. Hmm...

Unlike the original, this river is littered with stranded soldiers eager to be rescued otherwise the idea remains basically the same. Controls are fine but the plane could have had a nip more speed and agility. I failed to understand the mechanics behind our weaponry which appeared to speed up to a rapid-level and thus made the game easy. Weirdly, we're not restricted to water but some buildings can destroy you, whilst mountains won't. Ahem.

Visually, it's okay to look at with nice landscapes and sprites that aren't too shabby. However, the scrolling is poor using a low framerate which is incredibly embarrassing. Sound effects are equally humiliating for our powerful 16-bit beast - which should have annihilated those "lesser" consoles! oh, and the firing will drive you insane!

Remembering that this was developed using SEUCK, it's not bad and I did get a level of enjoyment. However, those expecting a River Raid clone will be extremely disappointed by this shambles and that ST has zillions of better shoot 'em ups. I did play about a few games and eventually reached the boss - but that beat me twice and I never bothered trying again which says it all. Play the Xenon's, SWIV or Flying Shark instead (all searchable here)

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed playing river with no return. This game is simple but fun. Moreover the controls are pretty good which is essential in a shmups. This conversion made with seuck is astonishing. The final result is pleasant. Thanks for sharing mate.