Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
It’s possibly I remember this more for the music than anything else. I still whistle it to myself on a regular basis, although today – when I fired the thing up in order to inform this piece – was the first time I’d heard it in some 20 years. For the longest time, I wasn’t even sure where the song I was whistling came from, and looked blank whenever someone asked what it was. If nothing else, playing the 1984 vehicular action game again today finally told me what that ancient tune was. It’s the theme tune to an unofficial Knight Rider arcade game.
The traffic dodging/car-shooting Spy Hunter seemed like the fastest game in the world at the time – even though I first played it on PC years after its initial 1984 arcade release – and while it’s disappointingly treacly and jerky when played today, it’s still got an impressively unforgiving forward momentum. The controls are sadly Frogger-like, abrupt lurches to left and right rather than fluid driving, but this makes it a sort of puzzle racer, as you slam around the screen trying not to be knocked off the road or bombed to oblivion.
It was hard then and it’s hard now. In the early 90s, at school, its – to most of us – unseeen later stages were the stuff of legends, and tall tales abounded that your little spycar eventually transformed into a plane and a robot were never proven one way or another. We all saw its temporary change into a speedboat early in the game, so we all believed that still greater things lie ahead. Only as of today do I know better, and I am bitterly disappointed.
Still, though. That music.
You can play Spy Hunter in your browser via Archive.org here, but it’s legally grey area. The DOS version there is also significantly less attractive and fluid than the arcade and console versions.