Format reviewed: Arcade
Publisher: Atari Games
Developer: Atari Games
Few games in the arcades were as exciting to play in 1989 as Atari’s S.T.U.N. Runner. Ditching the realistic, yet oh-so-slow approach of the Hard Drivin’ games, Atari instead stuck all those available polygons into a futuristic racer that had the player hurtling down a series of sickeningly fast tunnels, while blasting away at any vehicle stupid enough to get in their way.
Set against a strict time limit and with more twists and turns than the average episode of Prison Break, it was S.T.U.N. Runner’s feeling of unadulterated speed that set it apart from other racers of the time. Like OutRun, it felt unique and instilled a feeling of excitement in you that few other racers were able to match.
Starting off in a bare-bones pod and tackling a fairly sedate opening course, S.T.U.N. Runner’s real fun doesn’t start until you’ve completed that beginning stretch and can start the first stage with a fully tooled-up craft. Huge wings get attached to your humble craft, a giant gun gets plonked on the roof and you’re off.
Ditching the need for an accelerator, speed is gained in S.T.U.N. Runner by simply avoiding collisions, running over boost pads, and driving on the fastest portion of the game’s many tunnels.
Granted, it starts off fairly easy, but the snaking tracks soon become littered with a variety of deadly hazards. While many of them can be shot to smithereens with your laser, it usually pays to pick up a Shock Wave when available, as it destroys everything in view. Although it’s a traditional one-use weapon, you can get a refill by completing a stage or collecting a set number of stars that are dotted around each stage.
With its beautifully sleek cabinet, crisp polygons, hectic gameplay and raucous sound effects, S.T.U.N. Runner remains an excellent racer that’s as exhilarating as it is fun to play. What a shame then that only Atari’s Lynx walked away with anything that could be considered a competent conversion. Oh, and the S.T.U.N. stands for Spread Tunnel Underground Network.