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.'
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