Tunnel Runner

Tunnel Runner

Company: CBS Electronics
Model #:
Dick Balaska & Stuart Ross
Year: 1983
A RAM Plus cartridge


Tunnel Runner is one of the few overly ambitious Atari 2600 games that manages to actually pull everything off.  Graphically Tunnel Runner is impressive with 3-D corridors that fill the screen and smoothly scroll as the player attempts to navigate the maze.  The gameplay, while seeming simple at first, actually requires careful strategy and planning to play to the higher levels.  The sound and music, while simple, give the game a haunting and creepy vibe.  Tunnel Runner is with out a doubt one of those games that pushed the 2600 to its limits and succeeded.

The goal of Tunnel Runner is simple, make your way through the maze and find the key.  Once youíve found the key you must then find the exit door and escape from the maze before time (indicated by the bar at the bottom of the screen) runs out or you will be forced to replay the level.  As youíre normally facing down the corridor, doors arenít immediately visible until you turn to face the wall theyíre on.  To help clue you in on where a door might be, the floor will begin to flash when one is near.  Once you see this flashing floor, quickly search the walls and see what kind of door it is and make your choice on if you want to take it or not.  There are four kinds of doors:

Up Door
This door (indicated by the up arrow) will take you to the next level.  You will need the key to enter this door.
Double Up Door
This door (indicated by two up arrows) will take you up TWO levels.  To use a Double Up door you must not only have the key, but must also have found the regular Up Door while in possession of the key.  No shortcuts here!
Teleport Door
This door (indicated by two arrows pointing sideways) will transport you to a random location in the maze.  Teleport Doors make a great emergency escape when surrounded by Zots, and you donít need a key to enter one.
Down Door
This door (indicated by two arrows pointing down) is also known as the door of last resort.  While you can enter this door to escape from an approaching Zot it will take you back to the previous level.  Make sure you really want to do this before entering.  You donít need a key to enter a Down Door, which is nice.


Of course, this wonít be a simple stroll in the park (errÖ maze).  Oh no, that would be too easy.  Making things more complicated are the presence of four orb like monsters called Zots who are out for your blood.    Each Zot has its own unique personality and can be identified by its color and sound:

Grey Zot
Slow, dumb and easy to outrun.
White Zot
Faster and smarter than the Grey Zot, he likes to follow you around but can still be outrun fairly easily.
Blue Zot
Extremely fast, but also incredibly dumb.  You canít outrun him, but you can lose him easily enough.
Red Zot
The head Zot.  The Red Zot is incredibly smart and fairly fast.  Once he gets on your tail, heís hard to lose.


During the course of running for your life around a giant maze, youíre bound to get lost quickly.  Thankfully Tunnel Runner includes a handy map which is called by hitting the fire button.  The map shows the entire maze youíre in, your position, the location of the Zots, and the location of the key (up to maze 16).  You will need to constantly refer to this map in order to keep your bearings.  Unfortunately, the map does not show the location of the doors so youíll still need to hunt those down on your own.  You can also see what direction youíre moving by looking at the compass arrow at the bottom of the screen.  Keep in mind though that while youíre looking at the map, the Zots are constantly on the move.  If you take too long, they may sneak up behind you and end your run!


Speaking of running, Tunnel Runner has an interesting movement mechanic.  The longer you push forward in a direction the faster you will run.  Thereís a catch however, the faster youíre running the harder it is to stop and turn around.  To change directions you must pull back on the stick to stop and only then can you turn left or right.  You can also back up while still facing forward if you keep pulling back on the stick.  Thankfully you will automatically stop running when you go past a door, which makes a handy way to find them quickly.  Learning how to run is an important part of Tunnel Runner so make sure you practice on the lower levels or youíll find yourself running straight into the mouth of a waiting Zot.


Tunnel Runner features two different game variations.  In Game 1 the mazes are always the same so the player can memorize each level.  As the locations of the key and escape doors are also always the same, this variation is recommended for beginners.  Game 2 features randomly generated mazes which add an extra challenge to the game.  This variation is recommended for players looking for a challenge or for those who have memorized the beginning levels.  Tunnel Runner also features an undocumented escape move.  If you find yourself trapped without any chance of escape, you can activate the emergency teleport by holding down the button and rotating the joystick in a circle.  This will teleport you to a random location in the maze, much like a Teleport Door.  This move may only be done once per level, so hold onto it until you need it.  Itís unknown why this isnít mentioned in the manual.

Version Cart Text Description
Late Beta


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