Road Blaster Retroview

It is a dark time where roving gang members – driving around like maniacs – are causing chaos and strife throughout the city, and the police are too terrified to handle this menace themselves. It looked like the gang’s reign of terror might have went unchecked forever, but one day they made a critical mistake when they killed your wife by running the two of you off the road on the day of your wedding. With the recent purchase of a fast and maneuverable red supercar, you plan to bring peace to your town by running each and every one of those unforgivable scum off the road in the name of revenge.

Revolutionary Concepts’ recent port of Road Blaster (out now, $4.99) – a game originally released in arcades back in 1985 by the now defunct Data East – brings a high quality, but woefully obscure, FMV game to the iOS masses. While some of you out there might have played the infamous Sega-CD port that was renamed Road Avenger, so as not to sound like the then available Atari Games arcade title: RoadBlasters, this version is infinitely superior in both controllability and video quality. I would even go so far as to argue that this is the best FMV game ever made, easily outpacing the legendary Dragon’s Lair in terms of making the player actually feel like they’re controlling the on-screen action.

When playing Road Blaster the player only ever has four different intuitive actions to worry about at any given time: steering left, steering right, turbo accelerating, and breaking. Using these commands they will swerve around boulders, jump off cliffs, drive along piers, inadvertently crash through the middle of a wedding, and generally drive around like a maniac – yet never hurting a single innocent person in the process – as they pursue all of the conveniently marked cars belonging to the evil gang. I can not begin to fathom why all the gang members saw fit to paint those faces – which look a bit like an angry ghost from Pac-man – on the rear end of their cars, but it certainly means you never have to guess as to which vehicles are your targets.

Road Blaster permits the player to achieve all of the above mentioned action through one of two different controls schemes: one that is entirely touch based, and one that makes use of your iOS device’s tilt functionality. When using the touch screen for steering your red supercar, you’ll actually rotate the steering wheel on your car’s dashboard with the thumb on your left hand (I suggest starting your finger at the wheel’s 3 o’clock position so you doesn’t accidentally go off the device’s edge while making left hand turns). Alternatively – in the tilt based control method – you will rotate the entire device like a steering wheel to control your car, and this method is just as effective as using the touch based steering wheel. However, no matter which method you choose for steering wheel control, the speed of your car will always be controlled by moving a gear selector up and down with the thumb on your right hand.

What makes Road Blaster work so well – when compared to the bulk of its brethren – is that all of the game’s moves have an obvious 1-to-1 correlation to the events transpiring on the screen, and it furthermore allows you to input commands in advance so long as the input is still being held at the target time. Even though the car’s dashboard always tells you what you need to do next, except for when the game is played on the hardest difficulty, odds are you were already naturally preparing to do the next expected move thanks to how the game’s animation perfectly fits the reactions expected of you. Furthermore, where as many other FMV games will often demand that you dodge something that you won’t even know the existence of until after you’ve already died, you will usually see obstacles coming a mile away in Road Blaster’s first-person behind the wheel perspective.

At the end of each stage the player will be given a letter grade based on how many times they died during a stage, as well as their average reaction time between being given a prompt and actually performing the action. The iOS port of Road Blaster will also locally save the singular highest score attained for each of the game’s three difficulty settings, as well as submit your performance to a Game Center based leader board. Since you get bonus points at the end of each level according to your average reaction time, this gives players who like breaking their personal high score an incentive to further master the game after finishing it.

If there was a set back to be found in the intense road-rage driving action to be found in Road Blaster, it would be that – considering its price tag – the entire game can be played through from start to finish in less than 20 minutes. While this does make the game nearly twice as long as the gameplay found within Dragon’s Lair, and more than twice as long when compared to Space Ace, that still doesn’t change the fact that the game is very short when compared to most iOS games that cost less. However, the game’s extremely reckless driving action – that clearly harkens from the eighties – does provide adequate visceral thrills such that it’s highly likely you’ll want to play it through multiple times (the particularly gutsy can even try for an achievement where they play through the entire game straight without dying once).

With the matters of Road Blaster’s gameplay finally out of the way, I will now talk about one of the most important parts of any FMV based game: the quality of the video footage. Simply put, the animation here is smoother – more colorful – and presented with a far higher frame rate than was ever seen in the wretched port that got released on the ill-fated Sega-CD. Furthermore – as the animation used in the iOS port is derived straight from the original master – the quality of the footage here is far clearer than what was seen on the arcade cabinet’s low resolution screen, doubly so if you get the specific HD version available only for iPads. Finally, the subject of the animation itself is also quite impressive considering that it’s done entirely from a first person perspective – coupled with a generous frame rate – back from the days before computer animation was used to do such things.

iFanzine Verdict: Road Blaster – unlike any other FMV game before or after it – truly realized the lofty premise of the now dead genre, to make you feel like you’re actually controlling the video footage in front of you. The iOS version features two different controls methods that both work flawlessly – an online leader board – and video quality that is far clearer than any previous home port, or even the original arcade game itself. The only downside here is the high price tag – especially when compared to the amount of content found in many cheaper titles – which some will consider a bit steep for a game that can ultimately be played through in just 20 minutes.