This review was created while the Spy Hunter theme, "Peter Gunn" played continuously in my mind. Spy Hunter was one of, if not the first games to combine the driving and shooting genres and did well enough at the arcades in '83 that it eventually spawned off a not-so-well-known sequel Spy Hunter II, in '87. As you know, there were official classic home versions released for the Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, and the Apple and Atari home computers. A handful of more recent platforms also saw Spy Hunter as a port as well.
As secret agent 007 . . . oops, they couldn't come out and say that. This game is based upon secret agents like James Bond and their various super cars that came heavily equipped to fight the bad guys on the highway. In your ultra-equipped turbo-charged spy mobile, your mission is to use your unlimited supply of machine guns to shoot up the bad guys or run them off the road, namely, the Road Lord, Switchblade, the Enforcer, the Copter (called the Mad Bomber in the arcade), Barrel Dumper and Doctor Torpedo. You should avoid the innocent drivers on the road, who can cost you points if you shoot them, but then again, they can also cause you to crash as well. In this vertical scrolling shooter game, your primary fire button shoots your unlimited supply of machine guns in the direction you are headed. This will eliminate 90% of the traffic. For vehicles behind you, armored vehicles, and those in the air, a second fire button (or set of controls on the CV) activates the special weapons - only available from your weapons van. Always be on the lookout for your Weapons Van - let that big rig get ahead of you on the road and then drive up the ramps into it. You are rewarded with a limited supply (usage) of: oil slicks, smoke screens, or anti-helicopter missiles.
Besides driving on the road, Spy Hunter also had a boathouse and a speedboat for chasing the enemy agents on the water. You may be forced to use the waterways - warned via a text message to detour left, as the bridge is out ahead. But there are also some chances to enter the waterways on your own. Once past the boat house you come out on the other side in your Spy Hunter speedboat. The waterways are somewhat more dangerous and require slower speeds due to the many small islands that must be avoided. Another change in pace can be found when the road conditions change to icy (I've not seen any other type of condition alerts).
You begin each game with only one life, but you have 999 counts on a timer (about 90 seconds) where you get unlimited lives - that is, the weapons van will pull up and give you another spy mobile as long as time remains on the counter. Points were earned primarily for your driving distance but also when you "rubbed off" the enemy agents. Extra lives are earned for scoring 10k, 18k, 30k and every 30,000 up to 120k.
Arcade Game Designed in 1983 by: Bally Midway George Gomez & Tom Leon.
Classic Platforms: Atari 2600 (Sega), 8 bit (Sega), Colecovision, Apple II and Commodore 64 (Sega). No luck with any programmer credits.
Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls
More info on Spy Hunter can be found at: http://22.214.171.124/popopedia/shows/arcade/ag1136.php
Disqualified: Apple II (N/A)
Have Nots: Atari 2600 (33)
As my writing deadline approached I noticed that the Digital Press Guide notes about a modification to a 7800 controller to play Spy Hunter. I will publish any information that I get on this in the future, as it would probably work for 3 of these 4 versions reviewed here.
The 2600 Graphics are decent (6), but clearly its worst feature. The screen is very dark and hard to see. The timer, score and weapons information is displayed at the top and bottom of the screen, quite the contrary to what you'd want in a vertical scroller - as this shortens the length of the road displayed. This same, inefficient layout occurs again on the Atari 8 bit and C64 ports, but not nearly as detracting as here. The Sound is good (6) but missing some of the effects, and limited use of music. The Addictiveness is cool (7), and compared to many 2600 games, you’ll find this one worth coming back to for more. Food for thought: Do the initials WV on top of the 2600 spy mobile stand for the programmers name, Weapons Van, or perhaps it is Volks Wagon, in reverse order?
Bronze Medal: Commodore 64
Silver Medal: Atari 8 bit (40)
Gold Medal: Colecovision (46)
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