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Genre: Racing

Publisher: Mindscape

Total time played: 3 Hours

Short review: A racing game with a twist, you have a gun and each level is like a puzzle you must solve to complete.

Interesting links related to 

Guitar Hero Syndrome

Years ago I was obsessed with the Guitar Hero series of games and would play them for hours on end. I eventually was good enough to play through almost all songs on Expert. The one major side effect was that after playing for a while my eyes would create an optical illusion and everything would feel like it was floating upwards. It could be pretty disorienting.

Roadblasters does the same thing to me. Each stage has two similar colors in the “off road” area that alternate back and forth to create the illusion of driving along a road. It is almost like a strobe effect and it can be disorienting.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 10.03.52 AM

Those alternating greens may cause epileptic seizures.

How To Play

The game is pretty simple. The goal is to reach the end of each of the 50 levels without running out of gas. This is a race, but, not against other cars, just against time, and by time I mean your gas tank.

But, like a lot of NES games, there is a little more strategy under the hood (pun intended) that will help you along your way.

Built In Level Select

When you start the game you have the option to play level 1, level 4 or level 11. There didn’t seem to be any benefit to playing through all 50 levels so I started at level 11. After beating around 5 levels you come to another stage select screen. This happens several times throughout the game. Skipping to the farthest level allowed each time means you can beat the game only racing through around 20 of the 50 stages.

Each Level Is A Mini Puzzle

In each level you start with a set amount of fuel and the enemy vehicles always appear in the same place. Because of this you can learn which enemies carry the extra fuel and start to learn where level hazards appear. In the later stages (45-50) the levels become more puzzle like. One stage only features road hazards with no chance for fuel pickups so you must drive extra carefully. One level starts you with almost no fuel so you must learn which cars contain extra fuel. I wish all of the levels were as puzzle like as the last few, if that were the case I would have gladly played through all 50.

Power Ups

Throughout the course of the game you will pick up some power ups. They are listed below:

Green Ball: These are littered along the racetrack and replenish a small amount of fuel in your main tank.

Brown Ball: These appear after defeating certain enemies (almost always the orange car) on the screen and replenish more fuel than the green ball. The catch is, you have to be traveling at full speed (212mph) to catch them. if you slow down or crash they will zoom off never to be seen again.

Uzi Cannon: Dropped by a plane that appears in certain levels. This is a rapid fire gun that doesn’t affect your score multiplier. If you crash you lose this gun.

Electro Shield: Dropped by a plane that appears in certain levels. Gives a few seconds of invincibility. You get three of these, if you crash you lose them all.

Nitro Inject: Dropped by a plane that appears in certain levels. Increases your max speed from 212 to 298 for a few seconds. You get three of these, if you crash you lose them all. When in nitro boost mode you do not use fuel. This is a necessity in some of the later levels (like level 49)

Cruise Missile: Dropped by a plane that appears in certain levels. This is by far the best weapon in the game, it completely wipes out all enemies on the screen and can be used up to 3 times, or until you crash. This is the only weapon in the game that can get rid of the mines and the Command Cars.

Enemies and Road Hazards

Stinger Car (Orange): Easily killed with a single shot from your gun, UZ Cannon or Cruise Missile.

Command Car (Blue): Can only be destroyed with a Cruise Missile. Since Cruise Missiles are rare, most of the time you will just have to drive around them.

Cycle: Can be killed the same way as the Stinger Car, the only difference being they are much smaller and require a more accurate shot.

Rat Jeep: Luckily these don’t appear too often, they quickly drive in from the bottom of the screen and swerve in front of you. They are killed in 1 hit from any weapon but require very fast reaction time. These things travel in packs, you never see just one.

Gun Turret: These guns line the right and left side of the screen. I found them to be the most annoying enemies in the game as they are very hard to shoot with your gun or UZ Cannon so your best bet is just to avoid the bullets they shoot at you. The bullets are small so it is easier said than done.

Mines: Mines appear on the road and must be dodged unless you are equipped with the Electro Shield or clear them out with the Cruise Missile. Your dashboard will flash and you will hear a beep when you are approaching mines in the road. Honestly, the notification didn’t help me avoid them.

Rocks: Luckily I only saw a few of these in my play through (level 35). They look similar to the Orange Car from a distance but you can’t destroy them and a lot of times I found myself not realizing it was a rock until it was too late.

Oil Slicks: When you hit an oil slick your car rotates 360 degrees in the road. The slicks don’t really seem to effect your steering or speed, the only negative I found was that you can’t shoot any oncoming cars when your car is rotating and facing the wrong direction.

Reserve Fuel

This is the only part of the game that requires luck, strategy and skill that carries over between levels. The only way to earn reserve fuel is at the end of a level. The amount of reserve fuel is determined by your score multiplier.

The score multiplier starts a 1x in each level and goes up by 1 every time you kill an enemy. If you shoot your gun at an enemy and miss, the multiplier goes down by 1. The maximum score multiplier is 10x meaning you have to kill 10 enemies throughout the stage without missing a shot.

If you end the stage with a 10x multiplier your reserve fuel fills up completely. If you finish with a lower multiplier it doesn’t. The amount of reserve fuel you have determines how many times you can crash in a stage. Think of the reserve fuel as extra seconds on the clock. You probably could beat the game without ever using reserve fuel, but, you’d have to play perfectly.

Because you don’t want to miss when shooting at an enemy you may end up not shooting when you have the 10x multiplier and hoping you can just dodge enemies which increases the difficulty of some sections. The UZ Cannon is great for these parts as you can wildly shoot and mow down enemies without risk of losing the multiplier.

Score Dashboard

I found this kind of neat, the dashboard you see as you race just raises up to fill the screen and show you the stats at the end of the race. A simple but neat effect. Also, after some stages while your score is being tallied you will see hints like “Sensors Detect Fuel Globes”. This is the earliest game I can recall giving in game hints that are common place today on modern generation games load screens.

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 1.03.40 PM

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 1.01.57 PM

Final Thoughts

Roadblasters isn’t great but it isn’t horrible. The stages all look pretty similar with the only real difference the different colored grassy areas around the road. The enemies are the same throughout the game and it isn’t until the much later levels that you really need to develop strategies to win.

The graphics and sound are both mediocre and I imagine most people would get bored by this game pretty fast. But, it is playable and has tight controls so it isn’t all bad.


I should note…I am also high score “A” I just hit the start button before I could put in my initials on that run.


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