STUN Runner Arcade: Racing Through the Futuristic Frontier
Game: S.T.U.N. Runner
Release Date: 1989
Publisher: Atari Games
Few arcade experiences matched the excitement of playing Atari's STUN Runner in 1989. Departing from the realistic yet somewhat sluggish approach of traditional racing games, Atari channeled all available polygons into a futuristic racing game. In STUN Runner, players raced through a series of incredibly fast tunnels, taking down anything in their path.
With a strict time limit and more twists and turns than the average episode of Prison Break, STUN Runner epitomized the true speed sensation for racing games of its time. Similar to OutRun, it delivered a unique experience that filled players with a sense of exhilaration unmatched by many other racing games.
Commencing in a basic capsule and navigating a relatively calm opening course, the real fun in S.T.U.N. Runner begins after completing that initial stretch. Entering the first stage with a fully equipped ship, your humble craft transforms with massive wings, a giant weapon dropping onto the roof, and you're set.
Doing away with the need for an accelerator, speed is gained by skillfully avoiding crashes, running over boost pads, and navigating the fastest sections of the game's many tunnels.
Gameplay of Stun Runner
Alright, it starts off quite manageable, but the meandering tracks swiftly become filled with an array of deadly hazards. While your laser can break down many of them, it's generally advisable to grab a Shockwave when available, as it obliterates everything in its path. Despite being a traditional single-use weapon, you can replenish it by completing a stage or collecting a specific number of stars scattered throughout each level.
With its elegantly sleek cabinet, crisp polygons, dynamic gameplay, and impactful sound effects, STUN Runner stands as an outstanding racing game that delivers both excitement and enjoyment. It's unfortunate that ports of this incredible arcade gem were only released for the Atari Lynx, Commodore 64, and DOS.
While S.T.U.N. Runner may seem impressive on paper, attempting to create a futuristic racing game in 1989 that defied gravity, surpassed the speed of sound, and boasted more polygons than ever was a groundbreaking endeavor. Despite S.T.U.N.'s undoubtedly innovative and unique concept at that time, Stun Runner struggled to execute it effectively. The gameplay feels somewhat clunky and, regrettably, becomes repetitive rather quickly.
Many of the quirks and shortcomings of the game, particularly when compared to other more renowned futuristic racing games like F-Zero or the WipEout series, can be attributed to the absence of established rules or standards for this type of game during that era. Anti-gravity racing in a video game environment, coupled with polygons that have not aged well, contributed to the challenges faced by S.T.U.N. Runner.
In essence, the significant merit of S.T.U.N. Runner lies in its impact on the futuristic racing genre. It takes the backdrop of the distant future and the shooting mechanics of Mach Rider, blending them into a more straightforward racing scenario. An illustration of this influence is evident in S.T.U.N. Runner's impact on the artwork of Psygnosis' 1995 WipEout. Consider playing S.T.U.N. Runner if you're a racing game enthusiast keen on exploring various future subgenres of the genre. Otherwise, you can pass on it without missing too much.
Conclusion: STUN Runner
Stun Runner exhibits few shortcomings, and additional options for race cars and diverse vehicles could enhance the experience. In essence, it stands out as a high-speed and well-crafted racing game, offering a wealth of challenges, enjoyment, and impressive special effects. As someone not typically drawn to racing games, I consistently find myself impressed and enthralled while conquering advanced challenges. Therefore, if you have a penchant for vehicle games, the formidable STUN Runner may just be to your liking.