Modern Review: Road Blaster (Apple iOS Devices)

"You all know about the gangs busting up the city? Geez, I wish someone would blast them..." Only the Road Blaster can clean up the streets, in this arcade iPhone port that actually suits the platform!

The original Road Blaster was an arcade laserdisc game released by Data East in 1985, and it saw you take up the role of the Road Blaster of the title, delivering justice to a vehicle-based gang responsible for ransacking your city and murdering your wife. How? By getting behind the wheel of a flashy red supercar and trashing 'em one by one. While most gamers will be familiar with the Mega-CD version known as Road Avenger in the US and Europe, this iPhone port, developed by Revolutionary Systems is based on the arcade game. While this means the amazingly cheesy opening song from the Mega-CD version by Wolf Team is gone, you get the amusing attract mode DJ instead and, more importantly, better quality video. The MCD version was servicable, but the video was a little bit grainy and lacking colour- here on the iPhone it's a lot clearer, the overlay graphic of your car's dashboard fits more naturally, and overall it looks more polished. The animation itself, provided by Japanese studio Toei Animation, still looks the part today (with some Fist of the North Star-esque character designs, especially the gang boss's goons), and is packed with action (your car takes out dozens of other vehicles and at least two helicopters with style, and pulls off some sick jumps) and neat touches, like persistent bad guys latching onto your car, and pitchforks and axes getting stuck in the hood until they blow off. The fact that the action mostly sticks to a first-person perspective gives the game a rollercoaster-like feel, and it rarely gives you a moment to relax... 

Blast 'Em Sky High

Of course, the main thing about Road Blaster is that it's just a nine-stage long quick-time-event rush- press the buttons as the prompt comes up (on Easy and Normal at least- playing on Expert removes the prompts, so you're relying on the video and sound effects) to stay alive, or watch your car crash and burn and go back to the last checkpoint. There's only four actions you need to worry about- steer left, steer right, brake and accelerate- and for the most part it's obvious what action you should be doing next, except the few times where you have to combine inputs. If the car to your right is ramming you, you can expect to have to turn right to compensate, for intsance- it's not like other games of this kind where it feels like you have to guess in advance. Although the timing can sometimes be strict, these moments are few and far between, so while memorisation helps, you can get by on instinct (which is more fun anyway), and pulling off a full run of a stage without a miss actually feels like an accomplishment.

Importantly, the controls actually work very well on the iPhone- steering is done by holding and turning the wheel (there's also optional tilt controls which work but make the other controls awkward) and braking/accelerating is done by moving a little gearstick up or down. Initially, you might find yourself dying when it comes to steering- it's a little too easy to slip your finger off the iPhone's screen which will re-centre the wheel. Once you get comfortable with the wheel though, the controls work far better than you think they would, and help you feel like you're doing something, even if it's just a video you're watching, really. It's one of the better Dragon's Lair-style laserdisc games out there, as it's got some great animated action, has respnsive controls, and doesn't feel unfair- the prompts give you enough time to react, there's no multiple-choice decisions you have to make that instantly kill you if you get them wrong, and while there are a few hiccups here and there (sometimes in Easy and Normal the sound prompts are missing) this is a very faithful translation of the arcade game. This port also benefits from a few bells and whistles- as well as two different car dashboards, you can unlock achievements for your GameCenter account (there's no giveaway achievements here- most of them need you to beat a stage without dying) and there's leaderboards for each difficulty.

Gameplay Footage:

On the Road

Really, this is exactly the kind of arcade game that benefits from an iPhone release- unlike some of the other ports I've played on the device (Splatterhouse comes to mind) the controls fit the platform very well (no fiddling with virtual joysticks or buttons off to the side, your hands never cover the action) and the fact that each stage is fairly short makes it good for a quick play while you're out and about. The iPhone is portable, after all, and this is just the sort of bite-sized game that's ideal for it. While it is still a Dragon's Lair-style press-the-buttons-to-not-die kind of game, it's one of the more entertaining, fairer entries in the genre, making it more than worthy of a second chance if you missed the Mega-CD port.  

Please note: This review is based on the iPhone version, but it is also available for the iPod Touch and iPad.- it's available from the App Store for £2.99


Last Updated ( 04 July 2012 )  

Tepid Snake

Wait, what do I put in this box again? Oh, it's about me. I like playing weird and unusual games- the sort you're likely to forget about- and I hope you like reading about them because they're what I write about. And game trivia too. Please look forward to it!

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