Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#87 – RoadBlasters

Do what the title says and blast your way through this action driving game.

Pretty nice tune here.

To Beat: Reach the ending after Level 50
To Complete: Beat the game and play all levels
What I Did: Completed the game without dying
Played: 5/28/18
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: RoadBlasters Longplay

I’m noticing that a lot of video game names are long and complicated these days. Part of that is because modern games are also longer and more complicated, and they do seem to trend that way all the time. It’s tough to sum up modern games with short names that can also carry the idea of the game itself. The other part is that most of the simpler names are already taken. With early games especially, the ideas are simple enough to sum up in a word. I’m thinking of games like Asteroids or Centipede where you don’t need to go any further in explanation to know what they are about. RoadBlasters has a straightforward name and you know what you are getting into when you play it.

RoadBlasters originated as an arcade title in 1987. It was both developed and published by Atari Games. The arcade version came in both a standard upright cabinet and a large, cockpit-style cabinet. This game was ported to various home computers and game consoles, including the Atari Lynx and the Sega Genesis. The NES port, released in January 1990 in North America, was published by Mindscape. PAL versions were released in Europe sometime in 1990. A lot of what I read said that Atari Games or Tengen developed the NES version, but I believe it was Beam Software as they are mentioned on the title screen for producing the game.

RoadBlasters is a driving game that’s more of a shoot-em-up than a racing game. There’s no story here for a change. You drive an armored car that is outfitted with guns on the front. Simply drive ahead and blast away anything that stands in your way. Your task is to reach the end of each course before running out of fuel. There are 50 courses in RoadBlasters and you beat the game when you reach the end of the final course.

Blow them up! It’s more of a shooter than a driving game.

This game has simple controls. You use the D-pad to drive. Press Up to accelerate and Down to brake. If you let go of both Up and Down, your car will maintain speed as long as you stay on the road. Press Left or Right to steer in the desired direction. Press the A button to fire your main guns. You have unlimited shots! The B button is used to launch any special items you have. The Start button pauses and unpauses the game.

The game screen mostly consists of the open road and your car with the view from behind your vehicle. The bottom part of the screen contains all pertinent information. The left side shows your score multiplier. The small, vertical rectangle to the right of the multiplier is an indicator light that flashes when you are approaching mines. Next to that is your fuel gauge, both your normal fuel and your reserve fuel tank. You also see your current speed as well as your score. The round number is displayed in the upper-right corner of the playfield.

One of the main mechanics to this game is the score multiplier. It begins at one and can go as high as ten. You accrue points rapidly just by driving and the multiplier determines how quickly your score increases. Every way you can earn points is influenced by the multiplier, whether it is from shooting enemies or earning a bonus at the end of each course. You increase the multiplier by one when you shoot down an enemy, but it decreases by one if you miss with a shot. You really need to work on your accuracy and not just spew fire all over the road if you want to have a high multiplier.

Orange cars sometimes leave behind fuel pickups.

Another mechanic is the fuel system. Naturally, you use fuel in this game as you drive and you don’t want to run out before reaching the end of the course. There are a few ways to earn fuel. Sometimes there are fuel globes on the road and all you have to do is drive over them to add fuel. There are green ones that appear on the course that add a tiny amount of fuel, and there are orange ones you get by blasting certain cars that add more fuel than the green ones. Many levels have a checkpoint halfway through that automatically refills your main fuel tank back to the starting amount. You also have a reserve fuel tank. Only when you run out of fuel in the main tank will you automatically draw fuel from the reserve tank. When you complete a course, you get a point bonus that doubles as a reserve fuel refill. The more bonus points you get, the more reserve fuel you get. This is the real reason why you want to keep your multiplier as high as possible. A multiplier of ten at the end of the level fills up your reserve tank all the way.

There are some special items available. Periodically, a support plane will fly above and drop off some special gear containing one of four items. The item name will appear on the bottom of the screen after you collect it. The U.Z. Cannon mounts a turret on the top of your car. There is an ammo meter and the U.Z. Cannon is lost as soon as you run out of ammo. Firing the U.Z. Cannon does not affect your multiplier so you are more at liberty to fire at will. The other items can be used three times each. Round icons at the bottom show how many uses are remaining. The Electro Shield causes your car to flash colors for a while and you can drive through anything on the road unscathed. The Nitro Inject gives your car a huge speed boost. Normal max speed is 212 but you can get up to 298 with it. The Cruise Missile destroys everything on the road. Be careful because it also removes fuel globes on screen. All items are lost when either you use them all up or you crash your car.

Speaking of crashing, that’s another interesting thing about RoadBlasters. In most games, you would normally lose a life or lose a bunch of time when you crash. Here you can crash just about as often as you want and you come right back. The only penalty is a slight loss of fuel since you have to accelerate from a standstill each crash. I wrecked my car plenty of times when playing through RoadBlasters. It’s nice that the game is lenient in this regard.

The U.Z. Cannon is helpful against these off-road turrets.

There are several types of enemies and hazards on the road. The most common enemy is the orange Stinger car. These are taken down with one shot and can hide precious fuel globes. Small motorcycles can also be shot down, but they are a narrower target. Blue Command Cars aren’t damaged by normal fire and are often in your way. You can take them out with Cruise Missiles or the Electro Shield. Rat Jeeps are annoying enemies that only show up on a few courses. They drive in front of you from behind and then slam on the brakes to try and crash into you. You can blow them up but be quick. Gun Turrets sit on the sides of the road and shoot at you. They are difficult to shoot because of their positioning and are best left alone in my experience. Mines are telegraphed by the flashing indicator light but are tough to see on the road even if you know they are coming. Just avoid them. There are also rocks on the road that cause you to crash. Finally, oil slicks cause you to spin out and lose control when you drive over them. They are not deadly on their own if you manage to stay on the road.

The fifty stages in the game are grouped into twelve regions. At the start of the game, you may select from any of the first three regions, skipping some levels if you choose. When you complete a region, you are brought back to the select screen and you can choose a new region. This is really nice for practicing certain sections or getting to the end of the game faster. If you want to play every course in the game, then you must select the next region manually each time you get the opportunity.

You lose a life anytime you run out of fuel and are unable to reach the end of the stage or a checkpoint. You can continue from the start of the current course. After two continues, you have to start all over.

It gets tense when fuel is running low.

I have beaten RoadBlasters many times before. This was one of the earliest NES games my family owned and one of the few that was purchased new. I still have the same cart we bought back then and that’s what I used to play this time. I also beat RoadBlasters a couple of years ago for the NintendoAge NES contests. This is an affordable NES game that only costs around $5.

RoadBlasters isn’t exactly what I’d call an easy game. Some of the levels are very dependent on fuel globes and you need to be almost perfect to get through, even with a full reserve tank. You also have to do the dance of driving without shooting unless it’s necessary to keep the multiplier up so that you can top off your reserve tank for later. My past experience paid off big time, for I had no trouble beating RoadBlasters this time around. I played through every course and didn’t lose a life. My final score was a little over 1,950,000 which was better than I scored during the last NintendoAge contest. There were a few close calls in some of the later levels where I just barely survived, but overall I am very pleased with my run and my video longplay. It takes about an hour and a half to do a full run and it was good to get it done on my first try.

RoadBlasters is a fun action game that plays well on the NES. The controls are simple and work well for this kind of game. You can start out with easy levels or fast forward to some more difficult levels right away. This makes RoadBlasters a good game to play for just a few minutes or for longer stretches. The graphics are good and the roads curve quite a lot without any technical issues or slowdown. The sound is lackluster. All you hear during the game are car noises and sound effects. That can be exhausting for such a long game. The few songs that do play on the title screen and after each course are catchy and provide a nice sound break after the droning of the main action. One knock against RoadBlasters is that it’s a long game that is very repetitive if you take on all fifty courses. There’s also little room for error with only two continues to draw from. I’d say this a good NES game and a fun one to try out, even if you don’t care for racing games.

#87 – RoadBlasters

#87 – RoadBlasters (1,953,567 Points)

Posted In: Finished

Leave a Reply