#596 – Spy Hunter

Spying on really fast cars just because.
Feathered wings very much included.
Lousy armored cars. Always hindering progress.




GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: September 1987

So Spy Hunter‘s an “arcade classic” right? Then why is it so void of purpose and meaning? Few games provoke a sense of worthlessness while playing them, but Spy Hunter does just that. Fighting words, perhaps, but let’s delve into the game’s inner workings. You play the Spy Hunter, a car looking to drive, drive, drive his blues and his enemies off the road. You drive for points, which you accumulate simply by driving. You also get points for taking down armored cars, tire-slashers, cyclists; your typical Los Angeles fare. Lay your enemies to waste with your double shooter on the front of your car, or accumulate one of three special weapons: oil slicks, heat-seeking missiles (for those obnoxious helicopters), and smoke screens. You have a time limit which runs out within the first couple minutes of play. While the time limit is decreasing, you can die as much as you want with zero consequence. If you die after the time limit has run out, it’s game over unless you have extra lives acquired by points.

But why continue? What does one achieve by playing Spy Hunter? If you’re a points-aholic, maybe, but the points obtained are so easily gotten. All you have to do is drive and you’ll be drowning in points. There’s no sense of progression other than slight changes in scenery. No level changes, no rewards. You could literally drive forever if you’re good enough, which, chances are, you’re not, given Spy Hunter’s ridiculous sense of speed. You can accelerate and decelerate with the D-pad. The faster you go, the more likely you are to crash, and the slower you go, the more likely you are to get bored and put the game down. Even if you desire to be a Spy Hunter expert, it will take dozens, if not hundreds, of lives to get a handle on the game’s blinding quickness. But again, why bother? Personal fulfillment should come from playing and progressing through a game, any game, regardless of genre. Unless you just enjoy watching points rack up, Spy Hunter offers little enjoyment to the player.


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10 replies on “#596 – Spy Hunter”

Well, wasn’t that the point of all early 80s arcade games? To rack up points and eat your quarters? I was never a fan of this myself but it was better in the arcade with a steering wheel and pedals. I also remember the car switching to a boat after awhile. It’s probably most remembered for it’s theme music. The arcade sequel seemed worse but Super Spy Hunter got some good reviews back in the day.

Yeah, this was yet another pop culture icon that boggled me. I understood it’s purpose even less than pac-man. It CONTROLLED well, but it was just hanging in a vacuum. Where were you going? What were you trying to do? Can we not have levels or a thin veneer of a story? Jeez louize, the plots for Mario and Mega Man must have taken all of 30 seconds to write, and that was enough to send you off on an adventure. There were many games where, had this game been the driving mechanics within a game, it would have been superb.

Another example, don’t get me wrong, my heart lies with the NES, but SEGA did a pretty good job with a game named Action Fighter which contains bosses and has that kind of gameplay. Good game that was but hard to beat.

I loved this game as a kid, i used to play it all the time. As i got older i realized it was just the one level and it did seem to lose its appeal. Still, i would rather play this than the ps2 reboot. I didn’t like that one at all.

–dave kaminskas

I agree with the review wholeheartedly, what makes games like this fun in arcades are the high scores and getting to post your initials or ass in the high score to immortalize your playing and bragging rights but when you take that out of it and don’t add anything like levels or incentives, it takes the away some of the fun and excitement and doesn’t give you that much of a reason or reward for playing.

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