S.T.U.N. Runner
Copyright/Publisher: Domark/Tengen, Programmed by: Zach Townsend,
Music & FX By: Matt Furniss, Graphics by: Matt Hicks & Tony West,
Release Year: 1990, Genre: Weird Sports, Number Of Players: 1

Making the channel tunnel wasn't like this, was it? Nevertheless, this new Domark release, based on an old Atari coin-op is full of trouble tubes (the Ed could tell you how painful that is). We strapped an expendable reviewer into a very dangerous craft and told him to, 'Go get 'em!'

A quick test: does anyone know what S.T.U.N. stands for? Those of you who answered 'Spread Tunnel Underground Network', have another meatball; If you answered 'Suck Toilets, Uncle Nigel,' go to the back of the class for having a pathetic sense of humour.

Another quick test: what kind of ship would be best equipped to handle the twisty, turny, bumpy courses that make up the STUN? That's right - a STUN Ship! This queer kettle of fish-cum-futuristic car is shaped like a bobsleigh with wings, moves like a gazelle (and then some), and has the firepower of Rambo in a bad mood. Useful hardware it is too, since the aim of the game is to complete the two dozen courses that make up the network.

Based on the Atari coin-op, every stage follows much the same pattern: put your foot down, shoot anything that gets in the way, try to pick up bonuses like turbo boost and 'stars', cross the finish line, have a cup of tea and prepare to tackle the next stage. Collect enough green stars and you acquire the Shockwave - a spinning ring of death which annihilates everything in its path.

Driver over a Turbo Boost pad and not only does your craft travel at 944 mph, it also becomes transparent, allowing it to pass through enemies like a finger through custard. Or something. And that's all there is to it. The conversion is a good one, but it exposes the coin-op's major weakness: behind the graphic and aural presentation there's nothing more than a moderately exciting race game with shoot'em overtones. But while the 64 can't compete with the coin-op's visual power, it can mimic the gameplay - and it does that well enough.

Nevertheless a few other more minor drawbacks detract from its appeal. The instructions don't convey much atmosphere, and relate more to the 16-bit versions than the 64: there is constant reference to 'stars' which, in the 8-bit versions, are actually rectangular blocks. As far as the action goes, the time limits are nicely judged, except that a couple of times I appeared to cross the finish line only to be told that I was out of time.

Graphically, it's a decent attempt to emulate the coin-op's filled 3D on the 64 (wire-frame vector graphics just wouldn't have worked in terms of atmosphere), even if it isn't totally successful on conveying the high-speed action of the original. The sprites are less well drawn: both the STUN Ship and the enemies are a lad on the blocky side but the illusion of speed they convey is effective.

What all these faults combine to produce is a pretty average racer based on an average original. If you were a fan of the coin op and there were plenty of those - you should take a look. If on the other hand (like me) you weren't that keen, there are far better race and blast games up for grabs out there.

TUNNEL TRIVIA
The longest tunnel in the world carries a railway for 33.45 miles between Tappi Saki and Hokkaldo in Japan. In total, thirty-four lives were lost during its construction.

The longest road tunnel is the 10,14 mile long two-lane St Gotthard Road Tunnel from Goschenen to Airolo, Switzerland.

The Channel Tunnel, when completed, will contain two rail tunnels, each 7.6m wide and 31.03 miles long.

The widest tunnel in the world is the Yerba Buena Island tunnel in San Francisco: it's 23m wide, 17m high, and carries 80.000.000 vehicles a year.

The oldest navigable tunnel in the world is the Malpas Tunnel in southern France: It was completed in 1681 and is 161m long.

The most extensive human tunnel network is the Chicago TARP (Tunnels And Reservoir Plan) in Illinois, which involves 120 miles of sewerage tunnelling.

The black-tailed prairie dog is the most adept animal tunnel-builder. One colony discovered in 1901 was estimated to contain a tunnel network spread over 24.000 square miles.

THE DOWNERS...
The action can become repetitive after a few goes.

3D effect is not all it should be, and there are occasional glitches when there's a lot of action on screen.

Sound effects are grating, although the music is better.

...AND THE UPPERS
A good conversion of the coin-op's essential elements.

Easy for beginners - but later levels are really tough.

24 levels before you can face the Ultimate Challenge!

Begin on different levels.

Map of course before each stage helps you plan tactics.

Even when you've finished you can always go back and get a better score.


INTRO SCREEN
POWER RATING 68%

User friendly or what? Here's a nice map of the current 'Labyrinth' level, showing just where you've gotta go - which is basically anywhere! Steering over the red stars (er, you'll have to use some imagination here) makes sure you keep to the fastest route through the course... While hitting the flashing yellow/red stars (it's paused on yellow) kick in the Turbo Boost and zoom along at breakneck speeds. More round-the-bend antics from our STUN Runner. The vehicle in front can be overtaken or, more altively, blown into small pieces. However, these grey armoured droids must be avoided. You can pump laser fire into them all day and they don't even warm up! Here's an action shot of you speeding round a bend (honest). In the distance there's a purple ship (which you're attempting to blast) and a green Shockwave star. Aah! A quick blast through the countryside. Uh-oh, watch out for that Sunday-STUN Runner. Out of the way, Granny! And there goes the Shockwave! Erm... no, it doesn't look very impressive does it? That's because it's paused. Imagine there's about eight of them all whizzing round in a circle, wasting everything in their path. Now that's a Shockwave!

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