Road Runner (NES)

Road Runner Box Art

Road Runner

System: NES

Release Date: October 1989

Developer: Beam Software

Publisher: Tengen

Genre: Action

One of my favorite cartoons as a child revolved around the Road Runner. I was a Wile E. Coyote fan and always rooted for him to finally get his hands on the cocky bird. However, in this game, you are the Road Runner, so you want to avoid your predator like the plague. I remember renting this as a kid and being confused by the Tengen style black cart, but it always stuck in my head because of it.

The Road Runner needs to finish as many stages as possible in his allotted lives. In order to do so, he needs to keep up his speed. This is accomplished by eating birdseed strewn about the level. If you collect them all, you get a nice point bonus at the end of the level. The Road Runner is faster than Wile E. on foot, so if you run him off screen, he straps on his jet skates and you have to avoid him.

According to his name, the Road Runner must stay on the road, so he can move in all eight directions to traverse the oddly paved highway. Wile E. Coyote runs into different Acme tools in order to catch his prey. The rocket causes him to blast left and right, which is usually easy to avoid. The pogo stick requires more looping motions for effective evasion. When Wile E. gets in the helicopter, he starts throwing dynamite at you, which means don’t run in a straight line.

There are also obstacles on the levels that you need to avoid and preferably need to lure Wile E. into. There are trucks that come on screen head on. The Coyote follows Road Runner at about the same horizontal plane, so if you are quick, you can zig around the truck and zag back in time to get Wile E. smushed. Boulders sometimes rain down from the rock formations above the road. Cannons are sometimes placed at the end of a road, presumably by Wile E. making when he gets hit by them all the sweeter.

There are also mines that begin to show up as you complete levels. You want to jump over the mines with the A Button and lure Wile E. into them. This nets you the most points at the end of the level. Lemonade also gives you bonus points, but you have to stop for a moment to drink, which can leave you vulnerable. The levels loop after the fourth with more mines and obstacles and if you game over, you can take the shortcut to start back at the level you died on.

Graphics: 1.5

It looks enough like Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote for me, but my brain remembers it being better from when I was a kid.

Sound: 1.5

The music is a list of classical tunes, but they aren’t composed particularly well.

Gameplay: 2.0

Avoiding Wile E. Coyote relies on the speed and ingenuity of the player, in this sense, the game works.

Difficulty: 2.5

It can be difficult avoiding Wile E. on the narrow portions of road, but jumping chasms is infuriating.

Fun Factor: 1.5

I had an okay time and quit when I was getting bored, so this category didn’t suffer.

Overall Grade: 1.8

Road Runner earns a C. For an unlicensed game based on an existing property, this isn’t bad. It’s not good, but playing a few levels won’t hurt you.