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The very first release in what promises to be a long line of VCS cartridges with increased memory. Tunnel Runner is a multilevel. 3-D maze game that comes complete in one cart — no memory add-on. Something this new to the video game universe immediately begs the question: Is it original? No way. Maze games are as old as the hills, and the overall look of Tunnel Runner's 3-D effect has at least one direct predecessor in Starpath's Mindmaster.
Tunnel Runner is a very amazing game, being especially unbelievable that it’s running off a 2600. Granted, it’s one of those “RAM Plus” games, of course, which enables it’s 3-D setting, but it’s still really astounding–and very scary! This is one very scary game, what with monsters popping up out of nowhere (seemingly, at times), which would come with a warning label nowadays if it was remade, advising against people with gas, bladder control, and/or heart problems to stay away from this game at all costs.
There's nothing more to the game than simply trying to complete maze after maze, but that's what makes Tunnel Runner a masterpiece of clean simplicity. Like the best classic games, it is uncluttered by complex objectives or a meaningless back story. It simply is what it is -- a great game.
Yeah, it’s definitely a maze game. And kudos to the folks at CBS (and their RAM Plus chip, allegedly added to this cartridge) for actually creating a game that puts you IN the game. First-person perspective games were few in this era, and Tunnel Runner is unquestionably the best. The colors are sometimes overly vivid, and the sound actually helps you gauge the distance between you and the nearest bad giuy (all of which look like Pac-Man might from a ghost’s point of view). The gameplay itself is uninspired but always tense. You’ll find yourself running blindly down corridors in just about every level. Top this strange trip off with a hyper-speed flurry of walls and corridors when you exit a maze level. How did they get the 2600 to draw graphics that fast? Check out Tunnel Runner for some drug-induced fun.
The game boasts no multiplayer option, although that is a minor gripe. This game does not have the lasting appeal of many other Atari 2600 games either. It is a decent game in its own right, but it is also one that is not particularly easy to find, so you will have to decide for yourself whether or not it is a game worth looking for and paying for or whether it is not worth the trouble to do so. At the very least, CBS Electronics put another notch into the beginning of the 3D age.
Tunnel Runner may have gotten by on sheer novelty value in 1983, but in retrospect, its shallow gameplay is not very fun.