Atari was never very good at capitalizing on their strongest franchises. Oh sure, they released a sequel and update from time to time, but it's nothing like how Nintendo and Sega have run their respective franchises in the ground. Had RoadBlasters been released by another company, it would already be on its tenth iteration from the fifth development team. People would be sick of this vehicular combat franchise and all of the clones it spawned. It would be horrible. But at least in that alternate timeline we had sequels to this amazing action game.
It's normal to yearn for sequels and iterations to RoadBlasters. This exciting arcade game was full of promise, yet somehow along the way somebody decided it wasn't worth exploring. Playing the game again on the Lynx only further proves that they had a solid concept from the get-go.
Like the title suggests, RoadBlasters you blasting through traffic on the road to somewhere important. The game feels a lot like OutRun and RadRacer, only this time around you can blow up the cars in front of you with heavy duty weaponry. You start out with a machine gun attached to your car. As the race progresses you have the opportunity to pick up stronger weapons, including a gun that lets you literally drive through your cars as if they don't exist.
The cars in RoadBlasters aren't specifically racing against you, at least not in a traditional driving game sense. Here they are more like obstacles to avoid or destroy. They are enemies that players need to learn how to defeat, giving this a strange new layer of depth you normally don't see in 16-bit racing games.
No matter what level is chosen at the start menu, players will immediately realize that there's more to do than shoot down other racers. Players are forced to pick up green orbs, or else they'll run out of gas and be forced to forfeit the race. Thankfully there are plenty of orbs scattered around, though they aren't always easy to get to.
The controls are responsive, though I was taken aback by the game's unorthodox button layout. Instead of holding a button to accelerate, the player pushes up on the D-pad. The other buttons act as a brake and your weapons. I found this layout a little weird, but nothing I couldn't get past. I suspect this would have been ironed out on a system that housed more buttons.
I was impressed with the game's performance on the Lynx. The scaling is nearly as smooth as the arcade original and the play mechanics feel right. It also packages most of the stages from the stage. The game is so faithful to the arcade game that it shares most of the problems. I found the game got repetitive after a while. Also, I wish there was more diversity in the stages. These are things that would have been addressed in a sequel, had Atari decided to dig deeper into the RoadBlasters mythology.
As vehicular combat games go, this is one of the best. The action is fast and there are tons of levels to master. It would have been nice to see more options and modes, but this is a solid portable game that still holds up alarmingly well. Once you play RoadBlasters you too will yearn for a sequel.