You fly a One-Hit-Point Wonder fighter plane down a river, shooting at ships, helicopters, and planes, and trying to avoid death by Collision Damage. As you get close to the ships and helicopters, they start moving back and forth across the river. The planes fly across the screen and Wrap Around. You will also die if you hit the riverbank or run out of fuel. The river is divided into sections, separated by bridges. You have to blow the bridge to pass into each section. Fortunately, the bridges and all the enemies are one hit point wonders too, so it's easy to cut through them.
Some sections of the river are straight, but in others, it splits in two, and you have to carefully fly down a narrow channel, then get back to the center once the two channels join up again. You also have to worry about fuel; your plane goes through it quickly, and will crash if you don't use the refueling stations scattered along the river. You can blow these up before you get to them, so you have to be careful about your shooting.
Known for its endless, never random, always changing map, generated procedurally. Also known for being programmed by Carol Shaw, the first female programmer in the industry.
A sequel, River Raid II, was developed by Imagineering and released for the Atari 2600 in 1988.
River Raid provides examples of:
- Checkpoint: The bridges. Once you get past each one, you restart there if you lose a life.
- Collision Damage: Everything in the game except the fuel tanks is just there for you to crash into.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In the sections where the river forks, the terrain is a darker shade of green.
- Depth Perplexion: You're down in the river, and will die if you hit the banks. But the enemy planes are flying over the land, so they're obviously higher than you. So how do you die when you hit them? An interview with the developer somewhat explains this: Carol wanted the player to control a boat, but the graphics of the time made it difficult to tell it was supposed to be a boat, so she made it an airplane. That explains why the plane crashes into the ground, but not why a boat would have crashed into enemy planes.
- Endless Game: The river goes on forever, thanks to an algorithm that generates the terrain.
- Every Bullet is a Tracer: You can see every shot you fire.
- Every 10,000 Points: You get an extra life.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Battleships, helicopters, airplanes, the land, and bridges.
- Instant 180-Degree Turn: The ships and helicopters bounce back and forth across the river, instantly turning around when they reach the opposite bank.
- No Plot? No Problem!: No mention is given to who you are, who the enemies are, what river or country this is, or where you're going.
- One Bullet at a Time: You have to wait until your shot either hits a target or flies off the top of the screen to shoot another one.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: You and everybody else die in one hit.
- Procedural Generation: The level layout is randomly generated with each playthrough. This is the first video game to have such a feature. According to an interview with developer Carol Shaw, she said that she wanted to create a bunch of levels, but was unable to fit them on a cartridge, so having the game generated the level layout randomly on the fly was a solution to the problem.
- Scoring Points: The only objective. You can score up to a million points, at which point the score counter turns into exclamation marks.
- Shoot the Fuel Tank: Try to avoid this, but once you're done refueling, you can blow it up for a few more points.
- 2-D Space: You control an airplane that can't fly higher than the ground.
- Vertical Scrolling Shooter: The game takes place in an endless river, seen from above, that scrolls from top to bottom as you fly through it.
- Video-Game Lives: You start with four, and can have up to ten.
- Wrap Around: The enemy planes fly off one side of the screen and reappear on the other side.