Genre: Racing Developer: Sterling Silver Software Publisher: Tengen Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
Ah, RoadBlasters… Many an hour was spent by yours truly playing the NES version of this game years ago. The adrenaline-pumping speed and addictive gameplay made it something that I couldn’t stop playing. Now, a decade later, as I play the Genesis version of the game, I can say that the game is just as fun to play now as it was then. The graphical upgrading done from the NES version makes it look just like the arcade original, and the ability to play it on a Nomad is simply too cool.
The majority of your time in RoadBlasters will be spent driving down the many levels in this game (50 in all) shooting the living daylights out of your rivals. You’ll be facing off with enemy cars, bikers, and even some roadside gun turrets. On top of those rivals, you will also have to stay sharp and make sure to avoid the many water puddles in the middle of the road that can, and will cause you to spin out of control, potentially sending you into enemy cars and blowing you up. Along the way, you’ll have to collect green orbs to keep your car from running out of fuel. You can get these puppies by destroying vehicles or by finding them scattered across the road. Be sure to have an itchy trigger finger when you go for the ones in the enemy vehicles, because while some cars only take one shot to kill, some take more, and you’ve got to be ready for anything in this game.
RoadBlasters added some nice innovations that I dug nearly as much as the gameplay itself. The first key innovation was the use of a score multiplier that adjusted your score based on your performance. This multiplier acts as a fantastic motivator for me. Whenever I finish up a level and see my score, the first thing I look at is the multiplier. If I don’t see the multiplier going through the roof, then I’ll keep playing until I do. The second key innovation was the use of a reserve fuel tank that added another thing for you, the player, to think about while you were busy blasting away foes. This reserve tank also added an element of strategy to the game since you will have to monitor it closely when it runs low. When it gets low, and after your main fuel tank has been used up, you’ll have to watch what you do. You will have to pick and choose what enemies to kill since just going into a level with your guns blazing will cause you to run out of fuel, eventually.
The controls in RoadBlasters are pretty simple, which is part of what makes the game so much fun. You just use the d-pad to move your car, and a face button to shoot at your enemies. There’s beauty in simplicity, and this game exemplifies that cliché perfectly. You can do a number of things with this limited control scheme, which I definitely enjoy. You can shoot your machine gun, or use a weapon power-up, you can also race all around the level at ungodly speeds. All of this is made a blast thanks to the fast-paced and addictive nature of the gameplay.
You’ll be spending the vast majority of your time looking at the sleek red car you get to use, so you’d better like how it looks. Thankfully, Tengen made sure of that by packing the car with tons of details. You can make out nearly every part on the car, which is quite amazing considering the limits of the Genesis, and the fact that this is an early Genesis game. You’ll also be spending time looking at the backdrops which make up the many cities you’ll be battling your foes in. Much like your vehicle, they are packed with details, so much so that you will probably find yourself pausing the game just to take in the sights of the city you’re playing in at any given time.
The sound in the game nothing to brag about but just like with the controls, it gets the job done. Effects rarely go beyond the shooting sounds you’ll hear from your weapons and the explosions of your foes after they’ve met their match. Music is used sparingly, but effectively. You’ll hear one tune that comes up when you’re nearing the end of a level, which gives you a little audio motivator saying that you’ve done it, you’ve pretty much beaten this level, now see if you can do it again. You’ll also hear music when you’re running low on fuel. This tune is more fast paced and has a more urgent tone to it. This sound will definitely get your blood racing, but you’d better make sure it doesn’t get your car racing, because if it does, you could add to the problem and run out of fuel faster.
RoadBlasters will, hopefully, keep you playing for years to come. I never thought that this game would still be fun after a decade-long absence of it, but it was. The same things that attracted me to it then, attract me to it now. The gameplay is just as fun now as it was then, and to top it off, I’m noticing things now that I never noticed then. Things like the balance you will have to find if you hope to beat the game. While you can go through like a bat out of hell for the first few levels, as time goes on, you’ll have to balance out insanity with rational thinking. A paradox if there ever was one. Hopefully, you’ll find that delicate balance, if not, then keep playing until you do.
SCORE: 7 out of 10