Come with me to the 21st century when the top sports event is S.T.U.N. (Spread Tunnel Underground Network) racing. Racing in the S.T.U.N. ship, 24 tortuous tracks await your skills as you aim to qualify for the Ultimate Challenge. The tracks are not free of obstacles: a variety of enemy craft stand between you and the top accolade of the S.T.U.N. racing world.
The Train is harmless but blocks your path, Mag Cycles are small and last moving, Drones move in packs and intelligently block your path. Armoured Drones are like normal Drones but are Indestructible and Flyers drop bombs on your bonce.
Help is at hand. You start the game with lasers and a press of the fire button will atomise all attackers (bar armoured drones). Also by collecting enough of the stars that appear along the route you can stock up with shockwaves (a sort of smart bomb). These stars also indicate the best route to take through the twisting tunnels. Not following the stars slows you down and time is of the essence 'cos each level is played against the clock.
Ideally, you should keep your speed up (as if you needed to be told): to this end watch out for the booster pads as these warp your craft to 900 mph for a short time.
Sounds great, doesn't it? But oh dear, oh dear: S.T.U.N. Runner is decidedly naff. For a start the graphics look as if they've fallen through a timewarp from the early days of the Speccy. The main sprite is OK but, try as I might, I couldn't tell what the hell the attackers were (one actually looks like a mobile dog poo). All I could find to do was to collect objects and blast the indescribable enemy craft. Plus playing this could damage your eyesight! One of the tunnel designs is so eye warping you can literally see moving patterns on your peeper as you look away from the screen. Immense fun in the arcades, but on the Speccy S.T. U.N. Runner does not provide the excitement or thrills to make it a reasonable game.
MARK ... 25%
'Spectrum games went through a phase of being ultra slick in presentation and graphics around 1987. The programmers seemed to be bettering themselves all the time with great loaders and groovy graphic effects in all their creations. It's logical them to assume that games now should be mind-blowing. Unfortunately not. The best of the older programmers have trickled over to the 16-bit computers and we're left with badly put together games like S.T.U.N. Runner. It could easily have been written back in the early days of computing when a block moving across the screen got a CRASH Smash. The tunnel effect where black and white strips shoot out of the screen just destroys your eyesight after one game. I'm seriously thinking of sending Domark my next optician's bill! There is simply nothing interesting to do. You just fly about a bit in your craft, collecting stars and shooting the nasties. A bit of a miss.'
NICK ... 33%
Oh dear, oh dear. I suppose it was a bit of an impossible task asking anyone to do a Speccy conversion of STUN Runner- just about the fastest, snazziest little 3D race game ever seen - but I was hoping for something a bit more exciting than this. Admittedly they couldn't have done it in proper filled polygon 3D or anything - remember how slow Hard Drivin' ran last year? - but having sacrificed that for sprites it's just a shame nothing more impressIve has been made of it. Oh (as I said before) dear.
You'll remember the coin-op of course (or maybe you won't - it was one of those space-consuming motorbike-shaped sit-on ones, so it didn't make it into many arcades). It put you in the driving seat of a sort of futuristic sled thing, zooming down the travel tubes of a gigantic future city. The unusual thing about your mount was that it didn't actually have any propulsive force of its own - instead it sped up (or at least kept going) by taking the fastest line (usually the outside wall) down the series of tubes and roadways. In fact, it was rather like a souped-up bobsleigh.
And that was the game really - just try and keep going until you get to the finish line, when you get bunged onto a new course. It was all kept remarkably free of complications - okay, so there were the occasional booster pads which zoomed you forward to supersonic speeds, and the odd ramp to jump on later levels - but that was about it. Oh yes, except one thing - the fact that the tubes seemed to be packed with all sorts of weird enemy craft and obstacles that you had to shoot or dodge less they badly slowed down (or even destroyed) your ship. (Quite how the plot explains all this is I don't know - the packaging certainly doesn't tell you.)
Basically then, a remarkably simple coin-op - what made it was the impressive speed they got out of it and the gorgeous 3D graphics. It was actually one of my favourites of last year, but one that would obviously respond particularly badly to Spectrumisation. Take away the high speed visuals and well, there's precious little left.
And that's the over-riding impression you get with the Speccy version - that there's nothing much actually there. The problem isn't even that it's slow as such (as you might expect). In fact, as you bomb down the tunnel sections of the course, the banded colours of the walls wobble their way towards you undeniably quickly (fast enough to make your eyes go all funny in fact). Unfortunately this doesn't give the impression that you're moving (as its meant to) half as much as it gives the impression that concentric circles of colour are flashing towards you out of the screen (which is exactly what's happening).
Similarly, in the bits where the tunnels open out and you go scooting down an open road lot a time all you get is a very basic rolling road with hardly any roadside detail at all. Without the gear-changing, accelerating and braking of a normal driving game (never mind the lack of any other cars to race) it suddenly seems like you've got very little to do at all.
And so it goes on. Apart from the colour changes, each level looks and acts very much like the last (a fault carried over from the coin-op) and generates very little excitement once you've got bored of collecting stars by flying over them (not only do these mark the fastest route, they also add up to give you shockwave weapons, a sort of smart bomb) there's very little to do. In fact there's almost a criminal lack of progression between the levels - play one and you really have played them all. So where does that leave us? Well, very disappointed. I guess Domark are at the mercy of what Atari gives them with this current Tengen coin-op deal, but here's one game they would have been well advised to keep 16-bit only, if attempted to convert at all. (The Amiga version I've seen was actually pretty ropey too.) Hydra, Thunderjaws and the rest of their new batch look much more like potential Spectrum stuff to me.
Sorry, but the whole psycadelic thing would be better off blown up large and used as a backdrop for an Inspiral Carpets video than played as a game. Ho hum.
How can I best describe Stun Runner? Imagine someone has taken a number of empty Smartie tubes and wedge one end inside the other to form on big tube. This person has also then bent the tube so that it twists and turns in the way only Scalextric tracks know how. Now imagine that for, er, unspecified reasons, you have been shrunk down to the size of an ant and (presumably for the same unspecified reason) the orange Smarties has turned into a kind of motorised bobsleigh.
Got all that? Now as far as the actual game is concerned, envisage yourself clambering aboard this fictitious orange Smartie-cum-motorised-bobsleigh and racing around the empty Smartie tubes. That then is your game. (In other words, you could have just described Stun Runner as "like a bobsleigh run in an enclosed tube," Ed.) Simplicity at its best and, I'm afraid, a coin-op conversion at its worst.
Speed and exhilaration were the names of the game for the coin-op. Slow and Totally Unconvincing being more suited to all the computer conversions. You move left and right to follow the outside of the track to gain speed, you use up and down to aim your laser to shoot the enemies, you collect smart bombs, you run over turbo pads, you leave the tunnel and enter open road and you finish one course and get onto another. And you can't help noticing that the last course is precious little different from the last, give or take a colour change. And you can't help thinking that instead of zooming down a tunnel, it looks far more like lots of concentric circles jerking towards you. And you can't help wanting to say, trying to let it down a gently as possible, that it's just not quite the game for you.
Several words come to mind on first viewing S.T.U.N. Runner. "Innovative"; "impressive"; "exciting"; none of these are included in the list.
At first I thought it was just me. Surely a Tengen coin-op conversion by Domark, based on a hot-shot Atari ride-on machine, couldn't be all bad? Surely I was missing something? But no - S.T.U.N. Runner is, by common consent, quite dire.
The "awesome three-dimensional world" of S.T.U.N. Runner looks like something from a very old budget game which might have score about 51% from a very generous reviewer. The IBM PC screenshots on the packaging, needless to say, look great.
You pilot a Spread Tunnel Underground Network (?!) Runner, a small drone which you hove to glide through 24 levels of tedium. There's no real explanation of the plot or eventual aim of the game, but the tunnels and roods you have to negotiate are shown in map form before you embark on each mission, not that this appears to hove any effect on the gameplay.
In the main body of the game, me tunnels are represented using flashing bands of colour intended to give the impression of speed, but which actually give you little more than a headoche. You can swing your craft around the tunnel walls, watching out for stars which score you bonus points and which indicate the fastest routes. If you miss a star, your ship slows down.
Along the way you can also aim at Turbo Boost Pods which increase your speed to such a level that you pass unharmed through obstacles such as enemy ships. Alternatively, if you pick up Shockwave icons, you can release smart bombs which destroy everything on the screen, including the slow-moving Trains, fast Mag Cycles, groups of Drones, tougher Armoured Drones, and missile-launching Flyers which emerge from the distance.
Passing out of a tunnel you land on a roadway which twists and turns as in any car-racing game, except you don't have anything interesting in the backgrounds. There are also sections with a sort of spider-web background, but there's no significant variation in the action, which is uniformly ponderous, repetitive and dull.
Apart from the decent sound of the Spectrum version, the only consolation is that the CBM64 version is apparently worse, difficult though that is to imagine.
Price: £9.99/£14.99 48/128K
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
In the grimy Cyberpunk future of earth, there is only one way out for the poor kids - driving their hugely expensive turbo sports skimmers around stunt tracks. Yes, it's a hard life when you're on the streets, and the true desperation is embodied here in S.T.U.N. Runner.
The object of these races, the so-called Ultimate Challenge, is to hare around a series of twisting and twining tunnels at top speed, avoiding the obstacles in your path and shooting any enemies who get in your way before your time runs out. Complete all the races and you are crowned Grandmaster of Flash (or something like that).
Of course, only the best drivers can get the hang of controlling the ultra-light skimmer at MACH 1000000, much less grasp the essential concept of banking high up the walls of the cylindrical tunnels on energy turn. Then, of course, there are the obstacles, such as wreckage and debris in your path.
On top of this there are a number of evil enemies more than happy to add to your chances of demise. These villainous dastards include 'Trains', who speed along the bottoms of tunnels, requiring clever banking to avoid (which doesn't mean taking out a TESSA account), 'Mad Cycles', which are super-fast bikes prone to rapid braking, especially when they're right in front of you, their small size makes them difficult targets. 'Drones', slow moving intelligent objects who try to block your path. And finally 'Mad Flyers', light aircraft which zoom overhead raining bombs and missiles onto the track.
Still, it's not all bad. If you collect the right power-up your ship becomes equipped with lasers, while 'Shock Wave' smart bombs can be activated simply by driving over enough of the guideline stars which litter the course. To stack things further in your favour, there are also 'Turbo Boost' pads, which accelerate the ship to such a speed it passes through walls and objects!
The still screenshots make STUN Runner look pretty good, and true, the 3D effect is pretty well drawn. The only problem is that the slow speed of the game spoils the effect and results in it becoming somewhat jerky. This sporadic tic in the movement also puts the gameplay on a downer, it makes the skimmer hard to control and it's not exactly responsive at the best of times.
Still, the main criticism is that S.T.U.N. Runner was only ever an enjoyable arcade game because of the awesome speed and excellent graphics. Once those are stripped away, as they are here, then the true emptiness of S.T.U.N. Runner's gameplay becomes apparent. Not bad for the price, but there are better budget buys out there.
Label: Hit Squad
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Ed Laurence
GARTH: S.T.U.N. Runner mainly falls down in the playability stakes. It's just too slow and jerky to be really attractive. That said it's not a bad game in concept and fans of the original will like the look of this, if not the playability.
Amiga version reviewed Issue 41; Ace Rating: 480
With a rating of 480 for the Amiga version, you'd be right to expect very little from the 8-bit versions of S.T.U.N. Runner. In the Amiga version, though the speed of the filled-polygon animation is low, at least it looks pretty; in the Spectrum version, the colourful tunnels through which you race your space-motorbike are replaced by spider-webs, roadways and tunnels which are plain in design, lacking in colour and devoid of real animation.
Since the action consists solely of steering your bike around the walls of the tunnels, following the trail of stars to achieve the highest speed and aiming for boost pads, some nicely-designed enemies would not go amiss; but the alien ships here are poor little sprites which you're almost ashamed to blast.
Sound is poor, and the between-screen map displays add nothing to the action. On the whole it's hard to find anything to recommend in this effort, unless you're looking for a birthday present for someone you really dislike.
Spectrum/C64 £9.99, Amiga £24.99
In this conversion of the monster Tengen coin-op, the player takes control of the STUN Runner craft, speeding bobsleigh-like through the Spread Tunnel Underground Network (STUN, see?) blasting a variety of enemy craft and overcoming all the hazards that the STUN organisers have left in the tunnels.
You'll find stars that can be exchanged for Shockwaves (mega-destructive smart-bombs), and turbo pads which catapult your craft forward at 900 mph - so fast it even becomes transparent and invulnerable to enemy attack, Not bad, eh? There are also ramps that send your STUN ship flying into the air!
The basic object as a STUN Runner is to speed through each level, picking up enough speed to beat the punishing time limits. That being the case, it's best to follow the outside curve of the tunnel as this is where your ship picks up the most speed.
There are 24 levels of STUN Runner racing before your driver can claim the glory of the being the greatest racer in the known universe!
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