Christmas 1984 will be the time when all those American games arrive at last on the Spectrum. Activision seem to have taken a long while to turn their attention to the smaller computers, and have now done so with a vengeance!
Adapting their 'Atari River Raid' program has been one of the first jobs. Set on the River of No Return, this scrolling shoot em up is described as a mission to score as many points as possible by destroying enemy battleships, helicopters, fuel depots, jets, land tanks, hot air balloons and bridges before your jet crashes or runs out of fuel. Well that seems pretty straightforward! The river is described by green banks on either side and blue water in the middle. The landscape scrolls vertically down the screen with your jet centred. Movement is possible left and right and the jet may be speeded up or slowed down, which effectively speeds up the scrolling.
There is only one skill level but the game is played as a series of bridges. The more bridges you pass, the harder life becomes. The river is dotted with islands, some of them very large, and sometimes it narrows down so much that you are flying along a tiny zig zag route. Basically you must not touch any object (including the land) except fuel depots. The fuel runs out at a constant speed regardless of flying speed and is topped up by flying over the fuel depots. The slower you fly over them, the more fuel you get. They, too, can be blown up by firing missiles.
The bridges which divide up the playing levels must be destroyed. Land tanks which can be seen crossing the bridges ahead of you will start firing back, after bridge 7. For players who have reached a reasonable level of skill, it is possible to skip some of the first, easier bridges.
Control keys: 2/W accelerate/slow down, O/P left/right, bottom row letters to fire
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, Protek, AGF
Keyboard play: good positions and responsive
Use of colour: good
Graphics: smallish, smooth, generally reasonable
Sound: well used
Special features: optional start level and two-player games
'The scrolling landscape in this game is very effective in producing the impression of movement. What the game seems to lack is realism in details like the enemy craft - they seem a little flat? Also, I've heard of working your way up to a skill level (or bridge level in this case) but on my second game I already flew past bridge 43! Colour and sound have been well used and work well - no attribute problems. Overall, a good shoot em up game with plenty to keep you happy on higher screens; although perhaps a little over-priced.'
'In this adaption of Activision's Atari River Raid, the landscape scrolls vertically and the graphics are fairly small but adequate. The game builds up as you progress with fuel harder to find and more enemy craft shooting back at you. At first I thought it was a bit tame, but as things progressed the game built up, becoming harder all the time. An excellent feature is that of being able to start at several points - pro arcaders need waste no time and start at bridge 20. Pretty damn good stuff!'
'The one thing that all Activision games suffer from is price, they're all just too expensive for what they offer, even though they are quite good games. River Raid is no exception to this. The game is good but I thought expensive. The graphics are small but smooth and the sound is quite good. The result is a very good shoot em up which is fun to play and reasonably challenging - it 's certainly addictive and should keep you occupied for many a day. The menu options are excellent, especially for starting at different difficulties.'
Another old Activision 'classic' disinterred for your delectation, River Raid is, if anything, even older than Zenji, and looks it. You're a fighter pilot buzzing over a river trying to destroy a series of vital enemy bridge links that are well defended by a number of BASIC 'sprites' that are supposed to look like tanks, ships and observation balloons. I can see why Activision took a while to make an impact in the Speccy market if they started with tat like this. What I can't see is why Firebird has agreed to release it again. Avoid.
David: The idea of this game's pretty similar to a number of others I've seen over the last year, most notably Blue Max for the Atari.
You have to guide a jet plane up a river, banked on both sides by steep cliffs, shooting enemy planes, helicopters, ships and missiles that get in your way. Refuelling posts appear every now and then but these get fewer and further apart as you progress through the levels.
The graphics are quite smooth, but their quality's not so wonderful when you really push your foot down (or whatever you do in planes) - migraine sufferers watch out. Having said that though, you hardly need the graphics quality of Sabre Wulf to produce a good game, and River Raids certainly a good, addictive game. The game's both colourful and attractive to look at, and includes a good selection of start-up options.
I must admit I was expecting something a little better from a company like Activision - but then again, the game's aduictiveness is certainly a strong point in its favour. It's just a shame it's a little let down by the quality of the sound and graphics. 3/5 MISS
Ron: River Raid is a pretty basic game to be honest - I didn't think the graphics were up to much - but it was certainly addictive enough. 2/5 HIT
Roger: Once I've played this game 23 times in a row, I'd got a list of criticisms as long as my arm. But then again, who cares if the game turns out to be that addictive? 3/5 HIT
Hello, what's s this? ? River Raid. It's so old I wasn't even born when it first came out. (Hunts frantically through the cupboard and find old Atari 2600 VCS carttidge.) It's a prehistoric top-bottom scroller, flying you jet plaane along a treacherous meandering river with high cliffs destroying bridges, ships, the planes that come towards you and the tanks which fire at you. And be careful not to hit the cliffs.
Here we go. Wait a minute, there is a speck of dirt on my screen. It won't come off, hang one, that dirt is shaped remarkably like a plane. it is my plane! Cor, innit small. All the graphics are small, about one UDG square big in fact.
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
NEXT YEAR - THE THAMES
OTHER VERSIONS: CBM 64, Atari Home Computers, Atari VCS, Coleco
Convincing conversion of Carol Shaw's celebrated blast 'em up that not surprisingly earned a podium in the BIG K Hall of Fame some time back. Gamesters worth their salt will already know the scenario well. The objective is to fly the River of Death and crank up mega-scores by totalling battleships, choppers, enemy jets, balloons - in fact pretty much anything that moves.
So far so what, some may say! Well the magic comes via the design. The vertically scrolling river is divided by bridges into sections which further subdivide into watery warzones of unpredictable peril. Initially enemy resistance is fairly puny but the pace soon hots up. Beginning with Bridge Seven land-based tanks lob bombware carelessly into your path, and come sector seventeen the sky is aflame with the flak from various gunships 'n' off-shore armoury.
To complicate matters further there's a constant need to refuel and a great number of unsympathetic animation although the action does seem somewhat diluted in comparison with its Atari cousins. Y'know, I'm sure the ROMS are wilder! Even so this is more than lukewarm and in my estimation something of a compulsory purchase.
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