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Domark Ltd
1990
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.99
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
None

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14
Matt Bielby
Chris Bourne

Oh dear, oh dear. I suppose it was a bit of an impossible task asking anyone to do a Speccy conversion of STUN Runner- just about the fastest, snazziest little 3D race game ever seen - but I was hoping for something a bit more exciting than this. Admittedly they couldn't have done it in proper filled polygon 3D or anything - remember how slow Hard Drivin' ran last year? - but having sacrificed that for sprites it's just a shame nothing more impressIve has been made of it. Oh (as I said before) dear.

You'll remember the coin-op of course (or maybe you won't - it was one of those space-consuming motorbike-shaped sit-on ones, so it didn't make it into many arcades). It put you in the driving seat of a sort of futuristic sled thing, zooming down the travel tubes of a gigantic future city. The unusual thing about your mount was that it didn't actually have any propulsive force of its own - instead it sped up (or at least kept going) by taking the fastest line (usually the outside wall) down the series of tubes and roadways. In fact, it was rather like a souped-up bobsleigh.

And that was the game really - just try and keep going until you get to the finish line, when you get bunged onto a new course. It was all kept remarkably free of complications - okay, so there were the occasional booster pads which zoomed you forward to supersonic speeds, and the odd ramp to jump on later levels - but that was about it. Oh yes, except one thing - the fact that the tubes seemed to be packed with all sorts of weird enemy craft and obstacles that you had to shoot or dodge less they badly slowed down (or even destroyed) your ship. (Quite how the plot explains all this is I don't know - the packaging certainly doesn't tell you.)

Basically then, a remarkably simple coin-op - what made it was the impressive speed they got out of it and the gorgeous 3D graphics. It was actually one of my favourites of last year, but one that would obviously respond particularly badly to Spectrumisation. Take away the high speed visuals and well, there's precious little left.

And that's the over-riding impression you get with the Speccy version - that there's nothing much actually there. The problem isn't even that it's slow as such (as you might expect). In fact, as you bomb down the tunnel sections of the course, the banded colours of the walls wobble their way towards you undeniably quickly (fast enough to make your eyes go all funny in fact). Unfortunately this doesn't give the impression that you're moving (as its meant to) half as much as it gives the impression that concentric circles of colour are flashing towards you out of the screen (which is exactly what's happening).

Similarly, in the bits where the tunnels open out and you go scooting down an open road lot a time all you get is a very basic rolling road with hardly any roadside detail at all. Without the gear-changing, accelerating and braking of a normal driving game (never mind the lack of any other cars to race) it suddenly seems like you've got very little to do at all.

And so it goes on. Apart from the colour changes, each level looks and acts very much like the last (a fault carried over from the coin-op) and generates very little excitement once you've got bored of collecting stars by flying over them (not only do these mark the fastest route, they also add up to give you shockwave weapons, a sort of smart bomb) there's very little to do. In fact there's almost a criminal lack of progression between the levels - play one and you really have played them all. So where does that leave us? Well, very disappointed. I guess Domark are at the mercy of what Atari gives them with this current Tengen coin-op deal, but here's one game they would have been well advised to keep 16-bit only, if attempted to convert at all. (The Amiga version I've seen was actually pretty ropey too.) Hydra, Thunderjaws and the rest of their new batch look much more like potential Spectrum stuff to me.

Sorry, but the whole psycadelic thing would be better off blown up large and used as a backdrop for an Inspiral Carpets video than played as a game. Ho hum.

Tedious, repetitive and not very impressive conversion of an impossible-to-convert coin-op. Not recommended.

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Screenshot Text

One of the road sections, complete with enemy battle-wagons (but sadly lacking in roadside detail). It reckons we're doing 800mph, but you'd never know it without the speedo.

Wheee! Here we go looping the loop, and yes, we agree - it's all quite pretty in a freaky sort of way. (It's just that it doesn't much feel like you're in a tunnel, that's all.)

This one looks like a spiders web, but no, it's meant to be a tunnel again (just of a different sort). Again, dead pretty to have running quietly in the background making spook-shapes (but useless as a game).