Raft Rider (U.S. Games)
The videogame market was a battleground, everybody and their grandma were duking it out seeing who could get the biggest slice of that delicious money pie. Smaller companies stuck to the burgeoning market of home computers, though some did strike into the more lucrative console market, usually with very mixed results. Larger companies though, had the money to publish on console, usually they would snap up a small videogame company and have them produce games while acting as the publisher and pocketing most of the money, as we saw with TCF and Sirius Software. There was a rivalry though, between two rather unexpected companies, General Mills and Quaker Oats. General Mills was the money behind Parker Brothers while Quaker Oats was the money behind U.S. Games, we all already know the outcome of this rivalry but it’s still rather funny to think of these two titanic companies having a slap-fight over videogames, it’s a pity Kelloggs didn’t jump in and throw a few punches. The game we’re looking at today is one of U.S. Games rarest titles and depending on which cartridge variation you have it IS their rarest title. Raft Rider is sitting at a respectable 5/10 on the AA rarity scale at least for the beveled cartridge design, if you have the standard non-beveled it’s sitting at an even more respectable 6/10.
The game looks rather good actually; there is a lot of stuff going on, perhaps too much stuff. Let’s start with your little dude; he’s wearing blue jeans, a blue sweater, and a dapper top hat, as he paddles down a raging river on a log raft, he seems a bit overdressed if you ask me. He will encounter such obstacles as rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks, moose, rocks, and fallen trees. Along the banks of the river there are evergreens scrolling by (amazingly enough they actually got the 2600 to get this all moving horizontally). You will encounter some wildlife on your quest towards monotony, moose are basically the same as large rocks and don’t really do anything. Beavers act as wild cards and are able to place an obstacle anywhere in the river, hopefully not blocking your path. Other than that there is a nice sunset gradient in the background and the game looks very colorful and nice, but there is a caveat to all this niceness. This might be the only game with slowdown on the 2600, perhaps it’s just how the game is supposed to behave but sometimes when there are large amounts of obstacles on screen, especially if the beaver is present, everything will slow down and become slightly choppy, including your movement speed and paddling animation. The slowdown, if it even is that, isn’t bad enough to hinder any enjoyment from the game, but it is there.
This game has an okay amount of sounds, problem is they’re all so forgettable that I can’t even remember a single one of them apart from the whoosh of paddling and that catchy little tune when the game starts. The rest are just a variety of different beeps or sequence of beeps, I just finished playing the game again and I’ve already forgotten everything but the jingle and *WHOOSH*.
This game is quite unique, unfortunately unique doesn’t mean good. This is a boring game, one could feasibly spend an hour playing this game and be dealing with the same obstacles at the same speed as when they began. All you do is paddle around the river and avoid obstacles, you aren’t given total control of where you move however as you are stuck on a vertical plane. Movement is also unique, but in this case I’d say it was done very well. Your movements are extremely delayed, but not unresponsive, forcing you to plan ahead for future obstacles and not jump the gun. You’re not stuck on a grid though, if you want to stop your upward or downward movement you simply tap left on the joystick, and you’ll stop moving, this will be handy in a moment. The only way to get extra lives is to collect three gold nuggets, and getting these things is a nightmare, you have to touch them with your pole, you cannot touch them with anything else, if they tough your raft you lose a life. Positioning yourself to touch these nuggets is a hassle especially if you’re only a pixel off, yes you can turn around mid paddle but it’s only for a brief flash and then you’re turned around again leading to furious tapping of the joystick, d-pad, or arrow key. This game ends up feeling incredibly same-y incredibly quickly, and while there are different game variations they simply change up the moose behavior and the river speed, and just a warning they don’t use the game select switch, they use the difficulty switches and simply use the number of combinations on the cart, how very clever.
I’ve used this term before and I feel the need to use it again, Raft Rider is a one-trick pony, it will wow you with its graphics and unique gameplay concept, but very quickly all that wow turns into boredom and frustration. I even forgot to mention how the score just goes up on its own just like in Dishaster taking even more fun from the game since you never feel like you’re progressing any faster simply adding to the boredom. This is not a cheap game, on Ebay people are asking upwards of 25$ for a loose beveled cart, I haven’t seen a normal cart version and there aren’t any sales figures for it as well. If you see one of these for sale for less than 10 dollars then I’d recommend you pick it up if only for the rarity factor, if you’re buying it to play it then don’t pay more than 5 dollars. What an horrendously boring game…