Centuri's 1981 Tunnel Hunt

Star Fire at 900 miles per hour.

Fly through a tunnel at breakneck speeds, blowing away TIE fighter lookalikes. Line them up in the stationary crosshairs, and shoot at them with your lasers. Of course, it's not quite that simple. They're also shooting back at you, and if they don't hit you, they'll try and crash into you. If you use your lasers too much, they'll overheat and shut down until they cool off. You also have to keep clear of the walls, otherwise your hull will overheat.

Fortunately, you're not defenseless, since you have shields at your disposal. But you can only use them a few times before you'll drain all of their power.

The longer you manage to stay alive, the faster you'll go, and the harder it will be to stay in control. After a short time, the tunnel flies by at almost unbelievable speeds. In fact, the effect is almost nausea-inducing.

Missing Ingredient

Attack waves. In Tunnel Hunt, all you do is fly faster and faster until you lose a ship. Then you do it again, and again, and then the game ends. That's it. There are no goals, no waves, just an unending, monotonous tunnel.

In The Challenge of Nexar (for the Atari 2600), which is a similar game, you have to shoot a certain number of beacons within a time limit to complete each wave, in addition to fending off the attacking enemies. Higher waves have more beacons and faster enemies. Some similar sort of progression through Tunnel Hunt - different attack waves, more types of enemies, changing tunnel shapes, or having to choose from different tunnels to navigate through - would have gone a long way towards making it a more interesting game. According to the game's original programmer, some of these elements were planned, but ultimately scrapped due to the expense of the necessary hardware.

As a result, Tunnel Hunt languished in development at Atari for years (first as a vector game) before Centuri finally licensed and released it. While it was probably never really considered a "finished" game, it deserves a second look.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


All content © Dave Dries unless otherwise stated