River Raid [Atari 2600] – Review

Perhaps better than being known as a video game by one of/the first female designers would be being known simply as a really good shoot 'em up.
Perhaps better than being known as a video game by one of/the first female designers would be being known simply as a really good shoot ’em up.

Another solid title in Activision’s sterling catalog of Atari 2600 video games is River Raid. Designed by Carol Shaw (one of/the first female game designer) and released for the Atari 2600 in 1982, this initial release was followed by ports to many personal computers and home consoles of the day.

Piloting a jet fighter, players shoot down a wealth of enemy aircraft and ships as they fly above a seemingly never-ending river. Occasionally a bridge will need to be destroyed lest progression be halted (they must be enemy bridges). Perhaps the most unique gameplay mechanic of River Raid though is fuel management.

Fuel naturally depletes and can be refilled via canisters scattered about the game. Points are gained from destroying them however so there is a risk/reward mechanic to fuel management. Destroying some if you don’t need them could result in a nice score, but it could also result in an airplane without fuel – in the air. Players can also adjust the speed of their aircraft which also has an impact on fuel consumption.

Managing fuel was a major element of River Raid.
Managing fuel was a major element of River Raid.

Scoring 4,000, 8,000, and 12,000 points will unlock an additional gameplay mode (cloud cover mode), a commercial, and a patch in Activision Anthology. I thought River Raid was very well-made and contained a satisfying amount of challenge though so I didn’t stop with those accomplishments. Top-notch!

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