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Saturday, September 11, 2010

River Raid (1982)

River Raid
So I decided that today would be my first non-NES title, and the one that was the most requested was River Raid for the Atari 2600. So as I was looking to find the backstory, I finally found out (from reading the manual) that there is none; you are simply flying down the "River of No Return" trying to score as many points as you can. So as I started it up, I noticed a very large difference between this and the NES games I had been playing. So as I began, I immediately got the sense that I was playing a retro arcade game rather than one on a console. I could see certain elements of the game that have been taken and built upon in more modern games, especially games for the NES and XBLA/PSN. I would like to state before I start that I generally do not like arcade games, so that will have a pretty big effect on my impressions of this game.

What I Loved: There wasn't anything specific I loved about this game. I did like how the smoothly the difficulty changes as you progress through the river.
Everything you blow up gives you points

What I Hated: I just didn't like this game. I found it very repetitive and frankly, quite boring. There's no storyline or reason you're shooting you're way down a river, which is something that really bugs me when it comes to video games. I understand that the Atari hardware limits the amount of content you can put into the game, but because I grew up playing games that all had very interesting storylines, I want my games to have some form of a story. Another thing that annoyed me is that there is no end point; you simply keep flying and shooting until you run out of lives. This is because I enjoy being able to beat games, not having to beat myself. I simply lacked any sort of motivation to continue playing the game after my 3rd time through.
Flying over the fuel station refills your fuel

Overall Impression: It just couldn't hold my attention for more than 10 minutes. I can see how it inspired modern side scrollers, but appreciation could only take me so far. I found myself bored with the game after 10 minutes and wanting to go back to playing Contra. A large part of my dislike for this game is that I really did not appreciate it having no story or a reason for killing things. I'm fairly certain that my need for a story is a product of growing up on the Nintendo 64, where all of the games had a story of some sort. When I play games that lack any villain or goal to reach, it takes away the motivation for getting to the end. When I found out that there is no end, I lost all desire to play. There would be no self-gratification for beating a game if there is no ending. I can understand how it could have been very popular back then when there weren't many alternatives to play, but with the extent of games we have to choose from now, I just couldn't stop myself from playing Metroid instead.

29 comments:

shaurz said...

The attraction with this kind of game is beating your high score, and competing with others. It's not meant to be played for a long time. You can see the influence of Atari's arcade roots. Even though Nintendo also made arcade games, their games have a different style.

kevin said...

if you need motivation in the form of a storyline, read the back of the box. or, as people have suggested to you in darn near every review, find and read the manual.

because seriously, that's about the only place you'll find such things in just about any older game that isn't an RPG.

Ryan said...

http://www.atariage.com/manual_page.html?SystemID=2600&SoftwareLabelID=409&ItemTypeID=&currentPage=1&maxPages=6

Kevin, I read it. All it says is to score as many points as possible

kevin said...

http://www.atariage.com/box_page.html?SoftwareLabelID=409

back of the box. bear in mind, this is the plot of just about every game to feature planes, tanks, and soldiers trying to blow each other up.

the furthest they really developed the plot in these games was to take down some evil empire or rescue some POW's.

ultimately, this is all no more than a carrot in front of your nose to push you along, and justification for genocide of everyone you meet. they are the Michael Bay movies of video games. the only difference is that Michael Bay doesn't have a scoreboard in his movies that awards points for blowing more difficult targets up.

although that might make his movies more entertaining.

Ryan said...

Kevin, you don't understand what I'm saying. I prefer my games to have a set storyline. I like having a bad guy to fight against, a motivation for blowing things up, a reason for continuing going (when I don't have someone to directly compete against). Now I don't perceive "blow as much stuff up as you can" as a storyline. I'm sorry that you dislike that I think like this, but again, I believe it has to do with what kind of games I grew up on.

Joseph Luster said...

So have you never played games to get a high score or see how far you can get?

Ryan said...

Joseph, not really. It's just not that enjoyable for me. I know a lot of people enjoy them, but I'm just giving what I think and I don't find that much entertainment in going for high scores. I prefer being able to beat a game rather than beat myself. That's also probably why I don't like golf in real life haha

The Dread Pirate Guy said...

There were a lot of Atari 2600 games that actually did have a story, including arcade ports. But those were all in the instruction manuals.

Check out AtariAge.Com for some of those texts. Not all games had them, but there were a few surprisingly detailed stories for the time.

matthew said...

Hmmm can't find any contact info for this "ryan" guy on this blog, no email or anything, etc. Anyways just wanted to say I sent your blog to gonintendo.com and your basically on the bottom of the front page as the moment since that site is a blog news site and always updated but don't be suprise if you get a slight increase of traffic

Anyways in case you don't see it, go here
http://www.gonintendo.com/viewstory.php?id=135925

Looking forward for the next blog post, good luck!

Ryan said...

Aww thanks man. I noticed that I have had a pretty big increase for the past couple hours, now I know why. Thanks man. And I'm worried about putting up my e-mail in case I get flooded. I'll probably make a gmail account for it soon though.

Thanks again!

flcarnie said...

These types of games really aren't good for playing alone, play with some friends and compete for high scores, that's what makes games like this worth playing.

Frank Sands said...

Ryan, River Raid was one of the first games I played on my atari and I think one of the first games I ever played (the first being Pong). There really isn't any plot or even a motivation here, but as the other commenters have put it, the main goal was to compete with your friends and see who got the best highscore. One thing you must remember when playing Atari games is that there were no genres to speak of. There were no estabilished platformers, shooters, rpgs or sidescrollers. These things were being created and defined as the games were designed and launched. Another thing is that it was not uncommon for Atari games to loop forever instead of having an ending.

Ryan said...

Frank, I have been thinking about this and I understand the appeal to some people, but this type of game just does not appeal to me. For whatever reason, games like this are very boring for me, even when I have someone else to play with. For that reason, I don't think I'll be playing anymore Atari 2600 games as I feel it'd be unfair to the games I'll be looking at. Thank you though. It's always interesting to hear some background to the time period that games came out in so I can put it in perspective

Mike said...

This is on the PSP game Activision Hits Remixed. I like it. I never played it when it came out in the 80s. It is a very fun game.

Daniel said...

I loved playing this game on my old Atari, thanks for reminding me of it!

Ðяყåћ said...

"I loved playing this game on my old Atari, thanks for reminding me of it! " [2]
Me too!

Ryan, you have to keep in mind that these old Atari games were made to be a expensive toy, no more, no less. They were made to be played by a bunch of 5 or 6 kids when was raining and they couldn't play outside, that used to be the funniest thing to do (at least it was, here in Brazil by the late 80's, when I was a child playing River Raid), specially because games used to be very repetitive, as you said yourself, and kids don't like repetitive things after the "new-fase" is gone, at least not for a long time at once.
Only later video games started to be designed to be played alone. Besides, you have to remember that, back then, not every kid (better their parents instead) could afford an Atari, usually one or two kids had one in a group of friends, so the others went to these ones' house to play.

On top of all this, kids at the 80's used to have very strict time to waste on video games, because their parents would want to watch TV (there used to be only 1 or 2 TVs per house) or tell them to do homework, house chores or simply go to sleep (I think parents were a little afraid that video games would make their children violent or dumb at that time), so you didn't have time to beat the game, only yourself or your friends (remember you couldn't save the game).

Hope I helped you with a little more background from the 80's, at least a brazilian one! Pardon any mistakes, think I'm out of practice with my English =P

TechNewb said...

One thing I used to do was make up a storyline.

In fact at one point I got pretty into doing this sort of thing.

I would play a space shooter pretending I was defending the world against an alien invasion, then when I lost my last life, I would pretend that my ship got shot down and I had to defend my world from the ground, I would play some sort of top down ground-based shooter or something like that.

Danger Boy said...

I'm like technewb...in those days, you made your own story. I was drafted from 3rd grade as the only hope of the world, flying down the River of No Return. I don't remember what arbitrary score I picked to be the moment I could "win", but I do recall it was a huge number.
It's interesting and kind of cool that you are "spoiled" for non-story games, I wonder what will "spoil" my son on gaming, once he gets started.

chrisbid said...

but there is a goal in river raid

http://www.atariage.com/software_page.html?SoftwareLabelID=409

If you got a score of 15,000 points, you sent in a picture of your tv screen and activision sent you a River Raid patch. think analog gamer points.

http://www.atariage.com/2600/archives/activision_patch_page.html?PatchName=River%20Raid&ImageName=RiverRaid

and if you really wanted a challenge, the game did have an "ending". if you got to 1 million points, the score simply read !!!!!! and the game ended.

but the patches were really cool in the day, (they can fetch you a little money on ebay) and it was something that sadly died in the atari golden age of video games.

chrisbid said...

re: no story = no fun

does this mean you have never played and enjoyed games like tetris and pac man? i find it difficult to believe that one HAS to have a story as motivation to play a game. i CAN see somebody getting bored with river raid, the action isnt very fast paced and there isnt much to do beyond shooting and keeping your fuel levels up. but not liking a game due to lack of a story feels like a rationalization made after the fact.

Ankiseth said...

It's sad you're done playing Atari 2600 games. Some really were phenomenally fun games like Kaboom!, MegaMania, and indeed, River Raid. Even still, looking forward to seeing what you write in the future.

debbie said...

Oh holy buckets, I love River Raid. We have it for our PS2, and the husband and I play it for hours upon hours. I always like to be Player 2 because I think the black plane looks more covert than the yellow one. Also, my brother always made me be Player 2 whenever we played the Atari back in the day. We were lucky because we did have 2 TVs and got to play the Atari a whole lot. Our TV was a 13 inch black and white, but it was still pretty stellar. Ryan, I think it's a shame that you don't appreciate the genius that is River Raid. I don't know that really any of the games had "story lines" back then, but you have to remember that this was LOOONG before video games really made any sense at all.

Scott Lancaster said...

Personally, I found River Raid to be one of the few Atari games still being fun in 2010. Maybe for me it's more about 'retro goggles' , as I played River Raid alot when I was young.

nuclearheadache said...

I used to love River Raid.

As far as "story lines" go, honestly, I tend to kind of ignore them in a lot of modern games. At the very least I tend to zone out or something and end of having a hard time following them. Sometimes I skip through the cut scenes if I'm given that option. It's not that i have a problem with games having stories. It can be engaging if it's done well, like Bioshock, but often times it ends up like some B-Grade action movie.

I imagine the problem here is a generational one. Being younger, you find video games without stories boring. You've grown up on games with plot lines and cut scenes. I grew up on games like River Raid, so I guess i have a hard time taking video game story lines seriously. It's a matter of what we're used to.

However, I'd suggest that if you going to intentionally set out to review these old games that you'd try to keep an open mind. Don't give up on the 2600. It was a great console for its time.

Razor Shines said...

RIVER RAID!!! My favorite ATARI game!! been playing it for years and its SMOOOOOOTH!
Now im gona remove all gold fringed flags from the state.

Etherknight said...

On man, I used to stay up so late playing this! It came out when I was in like 4th grade. WE never had an Atari, but we had friends that had one. This was my first experience with"gamelock".

LegoGuy24 said...

WTF? ACTIVISION?

Jackofallhobbies said...

I enjoyed River Raid and other Activision titles. It today's games, high scores don't seem to matter much. Most games are story driven, and completing the storyline is key. When I started, completing levels and getting high scores were key.
Yes, sometimes when you go too far the game just repeated, but isn't that just like today's sitcoms.
I used to keep a book and write down all my high scores (no memory cards on the Atari 2600). There may be no backstory, but it was fun (and beating your brother was the real goal)

Damian Klimas said...

This is the greatest game I ever seen, It's like a starcraft koopen on PSX.

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