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Road Riot - The Atari Times

Road Riot

Yet another lost game that should have been released
by David Sherwin

June 26, 2003
The Lynx library is filled with some pretty classy titles like Warbirds and S.T.U.N. Runner, and it's pretty obvious that Atari Corp. marketed the Lynx to a fairly sophisticated and upscale gaming audience. The Lynx's sports library is really no exception to this general trend, and titles like Jimmy Connors Tennis, Awesome Golf, and European Soccer Challenge all exude a certain snob attitude that proved to be more popular with critics than with the buying public. Atari did belatedly realize that many members of its target audience seemed to prefer dogfights to horse riding, and it did develop a few titles of dubious artistic merit, like Pit Fighter and the unreleased (but essentially complete) Road Riot 4WD to appeal to this exurban ethos. It's probably a good thing that sales never did meet expectations, as we might well have ended up with Lynx Foxy Boxing or Tonya Harding Mud Wrestling!. That being said, however, Bruce Caruso and the gang at B&C Computer visions offer the modern Lynx gamer plenty of guilty pleasures with their EPROM release of Road Riot 4WD (RR). It's a well-crafted, graphically impressive game that should appeal to players who like a little technical challenge to go along with arcade action.


It's best to think of RR as a cross between Roadblasters and Atari Karts. The object of RR is to race your modified Formula One racer / dune buggy against three other competitors on one of eleven different dirt tracks. Cars are armed with guns, and while you won't be able to use them to blow your opponent right of the track, you can temporarily slow other cars by scoring a direct hit on them. Effective firing takes some practice because you won't often get to share the track with other cars; you'll most often see your competitors (if at all) on the side of the road after they've taken a spill themselves. Fortunately, the car's cockpit does contain a rearview mirror, so you'll be able to tell when one of your competitors is getting a bit too close for comfort.

Players must complete a preliminary qualifying round before advancing to one of the game's eleven tracks that comprise the game's "tournament circuit." The test track is actually the most difficult in the entire game, as it's often difficult there to detect the presence of road hazards. Fortunately, the Lynx doesn't play a very tough game, and you should be able to qualify for the Road Riot Tournament with relatively little difficulty.

Players who do graduate to the racing tour can challenge themselves with any one of eleven back-country tracks than span the globe. Each of the different tracks has different driving hazards, from the ice in South Pole to logs in the redwood forests of northern California. Players must "place" in order to continue racing; fortunately, two game continues enable even weak drivers to test out different courses.

Poorish controls are RR's biggest weakness, and players will have to spend an hour or two orienting themselves to the game's "feel". For instance, the gas pedal is operated with button "B", and the fire button with "A"; driving and firing is therefore often a tricky business. All of the game's cars are also inherently unstable, and they have a propensity for flipping over at will. I'm still not sure if this was a planned driving hazard or simply poor game design and execution.

RR's controls are also very sensitive, but I've found that it is possible to complete a lap without flipping over or crashing into a rock; you just have to be very careful not to turn your vehicle while jumping or negotiating any track curve. It's tricky, but the controls are still better than what you'll find on Checkered Flag for the Jaguar.

It's not currently known if RR supports multi-player capability through the comLynx cable. You'd think that RR would be great fun for friends seeking a little competitive challenge, but the game's quirky controls would likely frustrate their amusement attempts. RR really works best when your competitors aren't directly on track with you.


RR's graphics are the highpoint of the game and, indeed, one of the highlights of the Lynx library. There's a sly sense of humour at work, here, and the game's graphical environment is in keeping with the lowbrow theme of the game. The hosts of each track are all loopy cartoon characters drawn in the best bumpkin fashion, and run the gamut from the Elvis impersonator at the Las Vegas track, to (my favourite) "Idi A Real Mean Dada", the African dictator in Timbuktu. Players who place first or second in a race are treated to award scenes that feature digitized photographs which are superior to those found in Pit Fighter.

You might think that there wouldn't be much that you could do to create interest in a dirt road, but the game's designers have done an excellent job in varying each of the different tracks, and the details in many of them are quite delightful. You'll see rhinocerii and elephants on the side of the Timbuktu track, palms and cacti in 'Vegas, and even giant redwoods in California. The Australian track even features Ayers rock off in the distance, and most of the tracks feature graphical touches (e.g. grain silos in Iowa) that are appropriate to each course. I'm not sure how trees and gas stations ended up at the South Pole, though. Must be that "Global Warming" thing...

The game's graphics are good enough that you'll often be tempted to look at the passing scenery instead of concentrating on the course. If your attention strays, though, you'll be quickly brought back to reality when your car inevitably crashes on one of each course's many hazards.

Sound and Music

Each of the tracks features different background tunes that are, unfortunately, all quite annoying. The best music in the game is at the title screen, and it certainly doesn't take advantage of the Lynx's advanced audio hardware. Other gaming sounds are equally unimpressive and would be right at home on Pole Position or Enduro on the 2600. Happily, all noise can be eliminated by pressing "option 2" during game play


It's something of a shame that RR has received an inordinate amount of bad press with regard to its difficult control system, as this gaming controversy has eclipsed the game's greater merits and discouraged potential buyers from exploring the thrills of suburban trash culture. RR is certainly not the equal of Checkered Flag or Roadblasters, but it is a solid effort that offers enough gaming enjoyment for the average player that it can be recommended to everyone. And that $39.95 that you'll spend buying it is just a fraction of the money you'd no doubt otherwise spend taking Cledus, the twins, Gramps, and Bobby Sue to that Monster Demolition Derby.

Nice game. Too bad Atari didn't release it.
The hills are a nice effect in the game.
You'll crash a lot!
Quite a motley crew of track hosts, huh?
Road Riot
System: Lynx
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Driving
Graphics Score: 100%
Sound & Music Score: 50%
Gameplay Score: 70%
Control Score: 40%

Final Score: 70%

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