Atari Lynx Review: RoadBlasters on Lynx Lounge
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By Brian Thomas Barnhart |
Hey what is up everybody, welcome back to the Lynx Lounge! Today we’re going to be doing something very cool on the Lynx Lounge. This episode starts a huge arcade block. I’m talking like the next 20 episodes is just going to be dedicated to arcade games that were ported over to the Atari Lynx. Some good, some bad, some really great ones. And Hard Drivin’. Uh..
Without further ado, one of my favorite Atari Lynx games, hands down, and one of my top five arcade cabinet games, it is absolutely 100% going to be RoadBlasters! Get some of that, baby.
RoadBlasters was an arcade game that came out in 1987. Let me tell you about this game. For those of you who know me, I am a film maker. I make movies, and usually a film maker has a certain movie that inspires that said film maker to become a film maker. I have two films. One of them would be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I watched that movie over and over and over again, and I wanted to make movies like that.
The other movie that absolutely inspired me was the original Mad Max. There was something about it. I loved it, I loved the anarchy, I loved the vigilanteism of it, and I loved the Interceptor. I mean, I’m a car guy. I loved that giant car running down that motorcycle gang. I wanted to drive that car and I wanted to be Mad Max.
“RoadBlasters was incredible. You’d be the kid that other kids taunted on the playground for not having Game Boy. Then they’d see a game like RoadBlasters running on the Lynx. It just blew everything else away!”
– DeLorean Silhouette
So, in order for me to get that “Mad Max fix” there were only a handful of games in the arcade that would give me that juice, that V8-fueled juice that I needed.
One of those games was Spy Hunter 2. It did a pretty good job, it had motorcycle gangs, equipment on the car, and you could blow things up. That was a really cool game. However, the game that I went to all the time, anytime I saw it in the arcades, anytime I came across a RoadBlasters game, my money was going into it.
RoadBlasters had everything. It had speed, it had adrenalin, it had weapons. You could blow up cars. It had amazing control. That’s the thing, as good as it looked, as good as it sounded, it played even better.
Basically what RoadBlasters is about is you drive fast, you drive hard, if anything gets in your way you blow it up. And along the way you get these like really cool jets that fly over and drop auxiliary weapons for you to catch and use.
The jets drop up to four different weapons that you can get. There’s an Uzi Cannon, there’s an Electro-Shield, there’s a Cruise Missile that basically just nukes everything that’s on the stage, which is a pretty cool effect, and then there’s the Nitro Injecter. Now, to me the Nitro Injector was always the lamest because it just sped you up so fast that you ended up crashing anyway. I was never any good at it. I used it, you know, whatever, but really my fate was if I was ever going to get the Nitro Injector I would just end up blowing up.
So you race as fast as you can, you try to pick up the little fuel orbs, and you just blow up everything. There are certain cars you cannot shoot. There are blue limos that are bullet proof, there are mines in the road, there are water slicks or oil slicks that make your car spin out, there are also cannons on the side of the road that take pot shots at you that you have to make sure you can get past without getting shot.
Okay so what’s awesome about this version? I mean it’s very, very close to the arcade. It looks good, it plays good, it runs very, very smooth. It has voice sampling in it, on a portable game system? Come on man, really?
“RoadBlasters had everything. It had speed, it had adrenalin, it had weapons. You could blow up cars. It had amazing control. That’s the thing, as good as it looked, as good as it sounded, it played even better. ”
– Brian Thomas Barnhart, Lynx Lounge
I shouldn’t have to tell you how cool this system is. And why you don’t have one right now is crazy. Go on eBay, get one, get RoadBlasters and you’ll go “whoa, this is crazy!”
This game is so good.
So apparently there was some sort of a marketing tie-in with Matchbox toys, and they had a line of RoadBlasters cars that you could lock your weapons on, just like you have your little lock-on weapons in the game.
Now, to be honest with you, I don’t remember any of that at all. I don’t remember seeing any of those commercials, I don’t remember seeing any of those toys, nor do I ever remember it being a tie-in with Matchbox and Atari. I just knew that if there was an arcade that had RoadBlasters I was going to be playing it.
I want to address something about porting these arcade games to systems, whether it’s the Atari Lynx, or Nintendo, or Atari or whatever. Here’s the problem: it’s that each arcade game has a different control scheme. Some have steering wheels, some have a Trak-Ball, some have crazy crazy schemes like 720° has that locked joystick that just goes around in circles. So now you’re asking the programmers to make an arcade game with unique controls work with two buttons and a d-pad, like on the Lynx or the NES.
Think about what that means with a game like RoadBlasters with its triggered steering wheel control scheme, or Marble Madness with a Trak-Ball or Robotron: 2084 with it’s twin stick twitch action kind of a deal.
So, to me I’m looking at some of these games and wondering “Well, does it control as well as the arcade?” and the answer is No. That’s why it’s a draw in the arcades, because the cabinet is doing something different. “Oh I get to play this game and it’s cool because it’s a Trak-Ball!” Now I have to translate that to a d-pad, but I’m losing a little bit in the process. Is it the same game? Yes. It’s the same game, per se, however you lose a little bit in translation.
Now, as much as I like RoadBlasters, as much as I love this game and as much as I am so thrilled that it was on Atari Lynx, does it play as well as the arcade? And the answer is no, it doesn’t. It plays well enough, you’ll get used to it, however the thrill of the triggered steering is lost a bit in translation. For a d-pad the control is very solid, and come on, for any handheld, especially in 1990, RoadBlasters is incredible. If you have a Lynx, you gotta pick up RoadBlasters!
Okay guys, well despite its lack of a steering wheel RoadBlasters is definitely one of the best games on Atari Lynx, and definitely one of the best handheld games of its time. Even today. Be sure to check out the episode at the top of this page! And tune in to the next episode of Lynx Lounge, or to The Jag Bar, or to the new show 7800 Avenue! You’ve got three shows, your choice. Watch them all.
Cheers, have a great day, and I’ll catch you on the flip side. See you later!
RoadBlasters was programmed at Atari by D. Scott Williamson. Art and animation by Bob Nagel. Music by Dave Tumminaro.
Brian Thomas Barnhart is a classic gaming aficionado, retro pop culture connoisseur, and a Senior Fellow at Atari I/O. He is host of The Jag Bar, Lynx Lounge, 7800 Avenue, and the Atari I/O After Hours Podcast. Brian is a Moderator in the Atari I/O Forums under the name btbfilms76. You can follow him on Instagram and at his YouTube channel.
model # PA 2036
D. SCOTT WILLIAMSON