Tunnel Runner, released in 1983 for the Atari 2600, is a first-person maze game offering two gameplay modes. GAME1 is a campaign mode with pre-designed levels, while GAME2 generates random mazes for each level.
The player navigates a maze from a first-person perspective, aiming to find and use the exit door within a specific time limit. Many mazes have multiple exits, but players must locate a hidden key within the labyrinth to progress. If the player fails to escape the maze within the time limit, they must repeat the level upon finding the exit. The game’s difficulty increases as levels progress, with less time available at higher levels.
In addition to the time constraint, players face obstacles like Zots, creatures that roam the tunnels seeking the player. Unarmed, players must evade Zots while quickly finding the key and exit. The game becomes more challenging by adding more Zots (up to four) and increasing their speed. At higher levels, Zots can even pass through walls, a feature referred to as “Zot magic” in the game manual. Due to the Atari’s limitations, the game lacks turning animations, making it easy to become disoriented, particularly when pursued by Zots. Additionally, the color of the walls changes in each maze, with the most difficult levels featuring black walls where only the floor is visible.
To balance the increasing difficulty, the player’s running speed also increases throughout the game. A small arrow on the time indicator shows the player’s facing direction, and a map is available to help navigate each maze. By pressing the FIRE button, players can view an overhead map displaying the player’s location, Zots, key, and exit. As difficulty increases, the map may become less informative, with elements like Zots, the player, or the key becoming invisible.
The game features multiple types of doors in each maze, which the player can use but Zots cannot. These doors include the exit (accessible with a key), warp exit (accessible with a key after seeing the normal exit), teleporting doors (transporting the player to a random location in the maze), doors that send the player back a level, and doors with a “cb db” symbol that grant bonus points when stared at.
Players start with three extra lives and lose one whenever a Zot catches them. They can also earn extra lives (up to four) by scoring points from traversing tunnels, exiting levels quickly, or discovering “cb db” secret doors.
(source: Wikipedia: Tunel Runner)