River Raid II, Atari 2600

Based on Carol Shaw‘s classic vertically-scrolling shooter, but not created by her, River Raid II is a more challenging and slightly more complex take on the River Raid concept.

You’re still flying a jet fighter up a river channel, but this time you begin on an aircraft carrier and also have control over your altitude (which you didn’t in the previous game), which is directly tied to your speed. The lower you fly, the faster you go, and vice versa. Fuel still ticks down quickly and must be topped-up – this time by flying into small yellow containers that appear far too infrequently for my liking.

Taking off from the aircraft carrier might flummox anyone who hasn’t read the manual, or hasn’t worked it out themselves. You begin take off by pressing fire to apply thrust, then must pull back on the joystick before your plane reaches the end of the runway; then stop applying thrust and pulling back when you’re airborne. Otherwise you’ll crash.

When you’re successfully airborne you can fire torpedoes by pressing down and fire at the same time. This is required for destroying enemy ships that are sailing on the water. Ground installations can also be destroyed with torpedoes, as can the occasional bridge. Enemy aircraft can be shot using regular bullets and these will swerve with the plane as you move it, which is disconcerting as it usually results in you swerving away from oncoming aircraft and missing them with your bullets. The bullets moving as your plane moves is at least in keeping with the original River Raid, but it is rather frustrating.

As you fly over the water you’ll also encounter flak, which you must avoid. Eventually – if you have the fuel to make it that far – you’ll return to the aircraft carrier to land. Landing is as tricky as taking off, and the idea is to line yourself up using the display at the bottom of the screen, then applying some thrust/height as you make your final approach. When you’re over the carrier you then push up (and keep pushing up) until you come to a stop. And then you repeat the whole process again, once you’ve been refuelled and given some bonus points.

The key to making progress in River Raid II is to keep flying as fast as you dare and obviously not crash into anything, but then to drop speed quickly when you see one of the aforementioned rare yellow fuel canisters, then fly into them. If you miss any of the extra fuel pickups you’ll almost certainly run out of fuel and lose a life.

River Raid II is not a bad game, but the lack of fuel makes the game frustrating, and because of that I have to say that I prefer playing the original River Raid over this sequel. Playing River Raid II is too finicky and frustrating for my liking. It should’ve been more fun, and could’ve been.

More: River Raid II on atarimania.com

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