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S.T.U.N. Runner - The Atari Times

S.T.U.N. Runner

The sequel to Road Blasters?
by Darryl Brundage

May 9, 2005
Even with all the years that this game has been out--and with the many, many times that I've played it--it never occurred to me that this COULD be a sequel to Road Blasters until today, as I was pondering on what kind of an intro I should write up for this game.

After all, look at the similarities: both were made by Atari. Both were set in the future (and just what IS it that makes future society so welcoming of people going up in a laser death explosion? And people say that WE'RE uncivilized nowadays due to wrestling and Jerry Springer?), included a "nuke"-type weapon (at times), had the same kind of controller, and were a combination of a racer and a shooter. And, as sequels are supposed to be bigger and better than the originals (THEORETICALLY... geddit, Hollywood?), the graphics are improved (not that Road Blasters' graphics were slouchy or anything!) and updated to great polygons, and instead of an easy-going male voice giving you information about the game, we get a robotic, yet still yummy-sounding female voice on this one (don't even TELL me that's pathetic: I'm a *guy*, ok?!).

S.T.U.N. Runner (whatever the heck that stands for anyway...Super Turbo Urban Nullifier?) was done so incredibly well, it's probably my all-time favorite racing game (or racer/shooter, rather) of any car game on ANY platform, whereas it be games that I've played for the Atari 2600, 7800, Vectrex, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega 32X (to name all of my currently owned consoles) or even the arcades. Yes, as I said in my Road Blasters review, I admitted that I didn't even LIKE racers that much, but this *also* includes shooting! So there!

S.T.U.N. Runner is well-paced and has a very decent build-up of dangers, obstacles and all, plus there's also a nice balance of various challenge or bonus stages (whichever way you want to look at them) thrown in the mix to add some variety to the game. You are bestowed the control of some kind of futuristic racer/hovercraft thingy, although when you first start out, you are just granted the cab of it and must make it to the finish line within a certain timeframe...miss this on any level, and the game is over, as you're put out to pasture just like the Ford Pinto.

Over the course of a few levels, though, you're granted shields (which builds up your racer nicely) and weapons once you complete various tasks as you race through the levels. There are brief cut scenes (which you can skip by pressing the trigger button) where your craft is assembled with weapon upgrades and all, starting with lasers, which you can use to (obviously) blow away anyone dumb enough to meander into your lane...IF you can nail them in the first place, as there are some motorcycles that appear throughout the game that are small and hard to hit. Well, if they're (the cyclists) not obeying a helmet law, they deserved it...

Also aiding you along the way are shiny booster pads that will increase your speed, which can be, at times during certain levels, mandatory to run over in order to make it to the finish line. Unfortunately some tracks aren't even complete -- yet you're still allowed to race through them; go figure -- and if you bash into a vehicle or an obstacle, you could lose one or more shields (which you will get a bonus for remaining shields, plus one repaired at the end of each level), along with precious time (as you are spun around 360 degrees) that is needed to complete a level.

As it was featured in many an Atari game, included is the yoke controller to steer with that was also used in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, Firefox (which, even though S.T.U.N. Runner wasn't a laserdisc game, still totally blew away!), etc., which the great control is a perfect complement to the great graphics and sound effects of this game, along with a fire button...and a button for the Shockwave, if you were able to earn one during certain levels where it's offered.

Heh heh.

The Shockwave is a fun little weapon that acts as a smart bomb, destroying everything that is several seconds ahead of you in your path (and has a VERY cool visual effect of turning everything in front of you into a flying cloud of debris!). Unfortunately you're not going to get a lot of these during a game, so use them sparingly (usually the best time to use one of these, in general, is when several gray, indestructible cars are blocking your path), as they have to be earned, since certain levels require you to run over a certain amount of stars or booster pads that appear on the race track to earn one will grant you a ton of extra time and invincibility.

I used to play this a lot at a local dollar theatre that I would frequent, since it was in my old neighborhood, which, in addition to seeing a movie, took up an additional half hour round trip (at least) to drive there and back, which was good to spend an additional bit of time at the movies when you had to move back in with your parents (yeech), so that added even MORE time (by playing the game) that I was away from them (which was always fine with me).

Unfortunately, dollar theatres have been dying for the last several years (just like arcades), and the managers there were actually pretty smart in trying to bring in more business, as one day they suddenly got rid of their old arcade games (including S.T.U.N. Runner, wah/curse them!) and replaced them with brand spanking new machines. Even though I liked Gauntlet Legends, it was just way too difficult for one player to last very long, as playing time for the original is a LOT longer than this quarter-eating sequel (plus it was no substitute for S.T.U.N. Runner anyway).

The theatre also took a gamble and snagged the just released (at the time) Babe: Pig in the City movie (the sequel to the offbeat talking pig movie Babe), but that really didn't help them out either, as they closed their doors for good less than six months later, as putting a brand new movie in there for only a buck didn't seem to even get anyone to notice that they could see a brand new movie for real cheap (not that it mattered that it flopped, it was STILL a pretty big savings!) rather than paying an additional five smackeroos as it was, as the seats were still pretty empty during the showings. (Oops, did I admit that I actually SAW that movie? *delete* *delete* *delete*)

Also, now that Infogrames has changed their name to Atari and finally did some much-deserved justice to re-releasing many 2600 and arcade Atari games with the Atari's 80 Classic Games package without screwing them up this time around (unlike with their pathetic re-release of Adventure with their previous 10-in-1 compilation, messing up some of the play mechanics and all pretty good), I'd say it's high time to bring out S.T.U.N. Runner again, rather than just being for the Lynx (which our own TAT editor Greg gave a pretty enthusiastic "thumbs up" review for) and the ST computer version (which Greg also gave a rather UN-enthusiastic mention of in his Lynx review).

So c'mon Infogrames! (I know, they're called "Atari" now, but I only think of the REAL Atari [note how I didn't use the sarcastic quotes there] as existing from the 1970s through the 1990s.) Re-release this game on a future compilation...and DON'T screw it up either!!!


Oh, I just found out that the "stun" in S.T.U.N. Runner stands for Sub-Terranean Underground Network. Silly me! (Actually, MY acronym makes more sense...humph!)

Squishy squishy says the emulator.
Truckin' through the tunnels.
There are outside areas too.
The "Outer Drive" is a favorite.
S.T.U.N. Runner
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Driving
Graphics Score: 95%
Sound & Music Score: 90%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 92%

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