Spy Hunter

Review Date: January 31, 2021

Release Date: Crash and Burn Season, 1984

Platform: Atari 800

Developer: Bally Midway

Genre: Shooter

I wish it worked this way in real life: crash up a car and a replacement vehicle van drops a new one off.

Anecdotes: Every once in a while, there are games, even old games, that I have never played. I’m playing Spy Hunter blind. The only things I know in advance are that it used the Peter Gunn theme, it’s a River Raid clone, and the game information above found while researching.

Description: It’s basically River Raid on Road, but without the extras that made River Raid what it was. When the game starts, there is a timer counting down from 999. One crash after the timer runs out means game over. Along the way, the driver will have to steer to stay on the road, but then the game throws in a twist: the car can become a boat! Otherwise, it’s a matter of shooting cars and getting weapons out of the vans.

“Bridge Out, Detour on Left,” it says. I thought I crashed when I hit the water.

Positives: I like the use of the timer. The timer serves as a minimum time a game can go; there are infinite cars until it runs out. After it runs out, a crash will end the game unless 10,000 points have been obtained. It’s a very fair system. The game also warned me that a water segment was coming up. I also appreciate that running into a car isn’t an instant crash; cars can be rammed off the road. I also like the detail of having a boat drop off a new car when a crash happens in the water.

Which way should I go? In truth, it doesn’t matter; whichever route I take will expand to take over the screen.

Negatives: Having needed a bit of help, I consulted scans of the manual. The game employs a “dual control” scheme that I didn’t even know was possible. It looks to be a total pain on actual hardware and not much easier on an emulator. Because of that, I missed out on using weapons that fire behind the car. There were also lots of times where “no points” appeared on the screen; why it had to be pointed (puns are always intended) out is anyone’s guess.

There is clearly no point in this, so why bother?

Grade: B

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