Designers: George Gomez & Tom Leon
Added to my collection: July, 2000
Current Condition : Working 99% (bad hum caused by power supply)
Spy Hunter is the ultimate driving game if you happen to be a James Bond fan. This game puts you in control of a high-tech sports car that's initially armed with machine guns. Your goal: drive on an endless series of roads, avoiding civilian vehicles and destroying enemy vehicles whenever possible. At regular intervals along the way, you'll encounter Weapons Vans, which you can drive into to augment your offensive and defensive armament. Available weapons include a smoke screen, an oil slick, and a battery of missiles (which are the only weapons that you can use to deal with the helicopters you'll encounter later in the game). You can even drive off the main road and into a boathouse, whereupon your car is replaced by a flame-spewing speedboat.
This game is extremely fast-paced, and isn't really suitable for more casual players. The sheer number of controls--two triggers, three buttons, a gear shift, a steering wheel, and a gas pedal--gives you an awful lot to think about. Add that to the rather unforgiving driving model (you die if you hit another car at the wrong speed and when you accidentally drive off the road onto the grass) and you get a game that's really tough to master.
Spy Hunter makes up for this by being extremely compelling. The spy theme is unique in driving games (both then and now), the graphics were pretty good for the time, and the music--an ever-present electronic arrangement of the Peter Gunn theme--combine to make this one of the most fondly remembered games of its time.
Two versions of the machine were produced--an upright version and a slightly less-common full-cockpit sit-down version.
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Spy Hunter is one of my all-time favorite games, so imagine my excitement when I found one at one of the first video game auctions I attended. I was more than willing to pay up to $500 or more (the going rate seems to be about $700 to $800 these days for the upright version). For some reason, though, the folks in the crowd that day weren't big Spy Hunter fans. I lucked out and picked it up for a song at the auction!
Of course, the machine wasn't perfect. The game works fine (which was the most important thing to me). The triggers on the steering wheel both tend to stick a bit, and the springs in the wheel itself are rather noisy. Nothing that impedes play, though. Cosmetically speaking, there were a couple problems. The marquee backing was peeling off when I bought it. I lucked out on that one--I met someone at the auction who sold me a new marquee that is almost flawless! The other marquee-related problem was that the back-light was non-functional. This was easily remedied by replacing the starter in the fluorescent fixture and buying a new bulb.
When I first bought the machine, the music didn't work. It remained that way for over a year, in fact. I discovered online that there are two sound boards--one for music, the other for sound effects. Since the sound effects worked fine, I assumed my machine had a bad music board. After more than a year of searching, I found one on ebay and managed to outbid everyone else. I got the board, installed it, and...nothing. Disappointed, I went to the arcade collectors' newsgroup and searched on "Spy Hunter music". I found several threads on the subject, including one that suggested that one elusive music problem could be traced to the music volume knob. There are two volume knobs (just inside the coin door on the right) labeled "left" and "right". Well, it turns out that they are actually "sound effects" and "music". My sound effects knob worked just fine, but the music one had no effect. I removed the panel and saw the problem immediately--two of the three wires on the music knob had come loose. I soldered them back on and--voila! Music! The Peter Gunn theme is once again blasting from the speakers. I'm very pleased!
The cabinet itself was in pretty good shape, but was missing the sideart on both sides. I did a little checking and found out that Bally Midway didn't use decals for the Spy Hunter cabinets--they silk screened the sideart directly onto the games. Luckily, I recently found a company that sells perfect, meticulously produced sideart for Spy Hunter-- Arcade Renovations. (Check out the before and after pictures of my machine--they do nice work!) They also have art for a number of other games, and are in the process of producing sideart stencils for games where the art was sprayed on (such as Ms. Pac-Man, Defender and Joust). Check them out.
Spy Hunter has three banks of DIP switches, but only one two-switch bank is used. Most of the options on this game are set in the on-screen setup, which is activated by placing the machine in test mode using the switch on the right just inside the coin door. The asterisks (*) indicate the factory default settings.
|DIP Bank 3||1||2|
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