Tuesday 10 July 2012

Highway Encounter - Sinclair Spectrum & Amstrad CPC - 1985

[Spectrum]  The graphics on both Amstrad and Spectrum versions are more or less identical.

Highway Encounter is another isometric game from 1985.  It was programmed by Costa Panayi, the man behind TLL and Cyclone.  In this game you control a droid that has to escort a ‘Lasertron’ device from one end of a straight road that leads conveniently to an alien base at the other end.  Once the device has been pushed to the end of the road it destroys the alien base.  You then start over after a nice animated sequence.

The game begins with you controlling one robot that has to clear the way for the Lasertron. Ingeniously your extra lives are lined up behind the Lasertron and are programmed to automatically push it along the road until it meets an obstruction.  If the robot you are controlling is destroyed, one of the other robots becomes available.  If you get down to your last droid you must use it to clear the way and also push the weapon.

The highway is made up of 30 screens and contains various obstacles that must be cleared out of the way.  Among the obstacles are simple barrels that bar the route or indestructible moving mines that need to be made safe.  This can be achieved moving objects in front of the mines to stop them moving across the centre of the road.  These objects can be moved by pushing or shooting them with your laser.  Your laser fires three shots in quick succession then you must wait a second or so for it to recharge.  You will also need your laser to shoot the aliens which patrol some areas.

Highway Encounter is a very good game but if anything is too easy.  Clearing the obstacles requires very little head scratching and the enemy aliens are quite easy to destroy.  The main challenge comes from the time limit which can get a little tight if you are slow at clearing a path through the obstacles.

[Amstrad] The two versions only really differ in sound effects.  Neither is better.

On a side note, in early 2010 a previously unreleased Atari ST version of Highway Encounter came to light.  I haven't had a proper chance to play the game but it has a different road layout to the 8-bit versions and is noticeably harder.  Costa Panayi kindly gave permission for the game to be freely distributed…

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