S.T.U.N. Runner | Retro Review

Welcome to future of racing, ladies and gentlemen! S.T.U.N Runner, developed by Atari Games in 1989, has you racing an armoured bike that can reach speeds of 900mph, but swarms of enemies await to keep brave racers from completing each race in one piece! This right here is a seldom-discussed retro racing gem, and is part of the Midway Arcade Treasures 3 and Deluxe Edition compilation.

The arcade machine featured a small seat and steering wheel to control the vehicle, although sitting on a sofa with a standard controller is probably a bit more comfortable and a lot easier. What was unique about S.T.U.N Runner was that it offered the choice to skip to the sixth or eleventh track. The second two choices will award you with some bonus points as well. This is a handy feature for skipping past the handful of uninteresting training levels, should you have already familiarized with the title.

Plenty of twists and turns await in each map, as well as tight racepaths in between each tunnels.

The objective is to reach the end of the map with time to spare, hopefully in one piece. Some later levels will offer more paths to travel through, which adds a bit of variety in choice and visuals, but you’ll only have a split second to choose between them when they appear. Even then, making but a few mistakes or collisions could cost you the race completely, no thanks to the strict time limits. Challenges with specific objectives can also be played for bonus points and extra armour pieces, which makes them all the more worthwhile. Even better, you can even get a cannon strapped to your bike, and while aiming vertically is a bit of a struggle, due to a lack of a lock-on ability, shattering enemies into pieces of multi-coloured polygons is just as helpful as it is gratifying.

S.T.U.N Runner‘s fast-paced gameplay is very entertaining, and can provide a vigorous challenge. Boost pads are available for a jolt of speed, while running over a certain amount of green stars will award star-players a shock-wave weapon that will wipe out all foes ahead. Other racers can be shot down or merely dodged — it’s so satisfying to be able to rotate your vehicle at 360-degree angles when speeding through tunnels. A lack of a versus mode is a bit of a bummer, as it would’ve made for some envigorating races while each player defies gravity at top speed.

The arcade version and PS2 port is bursting with colour and flashing lights.

The visuals are made up of flat surfaces with a single colour per surface. Racing through pipes (not the kind that Mario travels through) isn’t particularly interesting to look at, but it’s quite a sight when you’re zipping through wire-frame tunnels in a starfield. It still retains a simplistic charm to it. There may not be much of a soundtrack present most of the time, but the catchy jingles are encouraging to listen to, as they heighten that feeling of urgency when little time is left. Although, when your vehicle hits a speed-boost, you’ll be greated to an agonizing SCREEEEEEEECH sound that’ll send anyone potty.

On the whole, S.T.U.N. Runner has a lot of appeal after all this time. Sure, the visuals may be dated and some, and being strapped for time does make it feel pretty unfair at times, but its high-octane gameplay, slick controls and emphasis on quick-snap reaction times makes it highly addictive and, on the whole, a real S.T.U.N-ner.


4 Stars

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