August’s Program: Canyon Raider

Steer your ship to avoid objects, or capture fuel to survive.

CANYON RADIER, 1983While reading through my old programming notebook last month, I wondered about using them on my website. From my earliest programming days, the notebook has a number of programs that never made it to my stack of printouts. Canyon Raider, August’s program of the month, is one of those programs.

A simple scrolling game, Canyon Raider requires you to maneuver your plane around obstacles using the “Z” and “X” keys. To make things a bit more difficult, you have a fuel gauge to watch as well. Fortunately, you can refuel by running over F’s. But, if this is all you do you might be a bit disappointed with your score. The only way you can gain any points is to press the “M” key and enter raider mode.

While in raider mode, you can run into objects, including fuel, to rack up points. But don’t get comfortable. The mode is temporary and, while active, burns fives times a much fuel. Oh, and although hitting fuel gives you points, it won’t gain you fuel. You have to wait to return to normal before you can fill your tank.

Dodging objects while watching your fuel consumption can, unfortunately, lead to a crashed plane. Good thing you have two more in reserve before the game ends. Three may seem like a lot, but you’ll be surprised how quickly your planes make their way to the scrape heap. And don’t forget, those canyon walls are always deadly.

Canyon Raider Notes, 1983I have to admit, the program as written didn’t work quite right. Although testing and debugging a program is second nature now, back then I was excited just to come up with an idea. Canyon Raider, although overall a solid concept, had a few coding flaws that made it unplayable. Fortunately, I do test now. I fixed the flaws while leaving the game mechanics alone.

Speaking of mechanics, Canyon Raider is a solid game. It has some decent complexity that makes it fun, while offering some randomness that keeps it fresh. I found the game gets tense when you enter raider mode and the random fuel dumps don’t show. The fact that you can’t rack up points without using raider mode forces you to make decisions and ultimately is what makes the game work.

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