Atari 2600 – River Raid


Back with some obscure stuff…

Activision’s arcade shooter ‘River Raid’ is probably their best-known title.
It sold like hot cakes, was loved by critics, was the first game to be put on the German index for teaching kids how to become terrorists and shone the spotlight on the female programmer Carol Shaw.
Heck, even today most players hail it as the greatest game for the Atari 2600.
Pure nostalgia?

The game has no real story and it really doesn’t need one.
You fly a jet down an everlasting river.
Destroy ships, helicopters, other jets and a thick wall at end of every segment.
Collect fuel tanks along the way or you’ll run out of gas and lose a life.
The river changes constantly from wide open areas to narrow paths.
Touching an enemy ( they don’t fire) or the bank will crash your vehicle.

I always wondered how high your jet actually flies across the river.
The bank looks really low and touching it results in a crash, so I’d assume you’re just a few feet over the water.
But the fast enemy jets can also crash into you and I don’t think they would go that low.
It’s not bothering me…it’s just kinda weird.

The important part, the gameplay, is absolutely solid.
You can only move left and right but you can also control how fast you wanna go.
This, combined with responsive controls, is crucial for later parts where you face numerous enemies at once and only have very little space to dodge.
I really like how your jet tilts when you move around.
I also dig the little details like houses and trees along the way but would’ve loved some change in scenery like a desert-, forest- or snow-stage.
But maybe that would be too distracting.
After all, River Raid really gets you in the zone, thanks to a fantastic learning curve.
It starts out slow and gives you some time to learn the controls and rules but steadily racks up the difficulty to a certain point.
And then it’s just you, the game and your instincts.
I didn’t even feel like playing the game after a while.
I was in a zen-like state and couldn’t stop.
It’s highly addictive.

Is it the best game for the system?
Is it worth playing since you probably already own it?
Just don’t expect to play for only five minutes. Make it two five ten hours.






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