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Player of Games, #71: Spy Hunter

Among the classic mid-1980s arcade games that made the jump to heavy rotation on Atari and home computers, Spy Hunter has to be among the top rank. This nugget of nostalgia benefits from an incredibly simple concept (drive, kill, don't die) and a bewildering array of possibilities. Ostensibly, you're guiding your sleek G-6155 Interceptor down the highway while a midi version of Mancini's immortal Peter Gunn theme evokes the James Bond tie-in the game was originally supposed to include. Suddenly, you're beset by bad dudes who want to run you off the road, shoot at you, or drop bombs on you from helicopters above. The good news is that you're not defenseless. In addition to your on-board machine guns, you're able to secure and deploy offensive weaponry such as missiles, oil slicks, and smokescreens, as well as body armor for your own car. Sometimes you even change into a boat for river mayhem.

Game on.

Spy Hunter was a fast-paced, challenging game that was never the same twice. It was also one of those games where you could occasionally enter that Zen-like Tetris Zone where no matter what the baddies or the computer threw your way, you handled it with smooth ease. Ask my friend Bill Coffin about the time he hastened the end of the Soviet Union by entering the Zone on a Spy Hunter machine during a school trip behind the Iron Curtain. Me, I was far more likely to be waiting for the tractor trailer to swing by with my replacement car than I was to crush my enemies. But it was always a good time.

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