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Written by  :  Trixter (9119)
Written on  :  Feb 10, 2003
Platform  :  Lynx
Rating  :  4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars

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A clever hardware trick makes the Lynx port better than most computer ports. An amazing technology demo and a great game.

The Good

The Atari Lynx was known for two things: Incredibly faithful arcade ports, and incredibly bad original games. When I first heard that STUN Runner was on the list of games to be ported to the Lynx, I was in disbelief: How could they port a 3D game to the Lynx and still retain decent gameplay? The Lynx port of Hard Drivin' was true 3D thanks to the math coprocessor in a Lynx, but the framerate was slow and unsatisfactory. Porting STUN Runner would have to come up with something extraordinary: In a game with speeds in excess of 900 MPH, a framerate of 2 frames per second doesn't cut it.

Enter the Lynx port, which throws away true 3D and settles for an amazingly realistic sprite-based approach. The tunnels you fly through are made up of multiple differently-sized concentric ring sprites -- and thanks to the Lynx's "infinite size, infinite number" hardware sprite engine, they're drawn at a very respectable rate, at least 15-25 fps. The result seems impossible -- it would be like playing Wing Commander on an original Game Boy. But they did it, and the screenshots prove it. Amazing.

Technology demo aside, the core gameplay was also ported intact. The runner moves well, and although the control is analog, there is the right amount of "english" when tapping or holding the d-pad that you can control it just fine. This includes the normally touchy part of aiming above you to shoot things out of the sky: Tap down once and shoot for a 30-degree shot, tap slightly longer for a 50-degree, and hold it down slightly for more.

The sound is all 100% digitized straight from the arcade game, minus one oversight (see trivia).

The Bad

As excellent as the sound is, they should have cleaned it up for the Lynx. Specifically, the original voice spoke to you while in tunnels, so there is a booming echo associated with any spoken voice. On a decent arcade speaker setup at a decent sampling rate, it sounds great -- but at a lower sampling rate through the Lynx's tinny speaker, it is not always intelligible.

One of the only unfortunate aspects of the Lynx's design was that playing digitized sound slowed the machine down slightly. Sometimes while playing STUN Runner, it is noticable and annoying enough to affect gameplay. This is especially frustrating when you realize that gameplay is slowing down slightly but the system clock is running at the same speed! So you are "penalized" sometimes for excessive sound. Silly, I know.

The Bottom Line

For a "how did they do that?" port of any arcade game, or for blinding speed in a racing game for the Lynx, you just simply can't beat STUN Runner.