If there was ever a James Bond wannabe it was Spy Hunter. Based off of just about every high speed car chase scene ever to grace a spy movie, Spy Hunter is a vertical racing game in which you must use the your turbo-charged spy mobile (The G-6155) to destroy all the enemy agents that are chasing you down. While the plot may sound a bit thin, the fast paced action more than makes up for it. Besides, who said games need a great plot anyway?
Spy Hunter is separated into two main sections: Land and Water. You start the game on land where you must drive down a highway at break neck speeds dodging in and out of the oncoming traffic. Along with deadly enemy agents, you'll be sharing the road with innocent civilians who are unknowing caught up and your high speed game of cat and mouse. Fortunately for you, you have a license to kill... everyone! Blasting civilian vehicles only penalizes you some points, so take them out if they get in your way (crashes with civilians are just as deadly as they are with enemy agents). After making your way down the long dividing highway you'll eventually come to a boat house (depending on the path you took). This boat house starts the second section of the game.
The second section of the game takes place once your car enters the boat house and turns into (wait for it...) a boat! The boat stage is very similar to the car stage with the exception that there are no civilians on the water (no innocent boaters to destroy). However since there are no civilians to tangle with, the water is just teaming with enemy agents. Watch out for oil barrel dumping boats and torpedo firing boats which appear only during the water stages. These new enemies are killers! After a short while your boat will dock and you'll turn back into a car to resume the rest of the game.
Speaking of blasting the enemy, lets go over your weapon systems:
You start the game out with only the machine gun, to collect other weapons you must drive into the back of the weapons truck. The weapons truck appears as a large red semi which will appear at regular intervals during the game. To enter the weapons truck, simply move behind it when it begins to slow down and you'll automatically be sucked inside. Once inside your car will be equipped with the appropriate weapon and dumped out on the side of the road. Be careful playing with your new found toys however, as your ammunition is severely limited.
Spy Hunter is unique amongst 2600 games in that it's the only game ever to come packaged with a special joystick holder. This holder allowed the two joysticks to be hooked together so both fire buttons could be utilized (similar to Omega Race's Booster Grip). The second fire button was used to activate your rear weapons (oil slick and smoke screen), while the normal joystick button activated your machine guns or missiles. This dual button combination can be a bit tricky at first, but becomes second nature after a few minutes. Unfortunately these holders are almost impossible to find today, and often go for large sums of money on ebay.
One thing Spy Hunter is well known for is its music. The catchy modern jazz tune was often heard blaring loudly from the games speakers. What most people don't know is that this tune as actually taken from a late 50's TV show called "Peter Gunn". Composed by Henry Mancini, "The Theme From Peter Gunn" was one of the first original pieces ever scored for a TV show (this was 1958 after all). However "The Theme From Peter Gunn" was not Bally's original choice for in-game music. Originally they had tried to license the James Bond theme for the game but had to go with Peter Gunn after negotiations fell through (I told you this game was a James Bond wannabe).
Spy Hunter is one of those rare cases in which the 2600 does the original arcade game justice. Nearly all the gameplay elements were left intact in the 2600 version with the exception of the snow boards which had to be dumped (not a big loss). Spy Hunter was the last 2600 game to be released by Sega before they left the market, and is therefore fairly difficult to find (often fetching $40 or more). However unlike many rare games, Spy Hunter is actually worth the high price it commands and is a welcome addition to any 2600 library. Just be thankful that the horrible sequel never made it to the 2600.