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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Highway Encounter (ZX Spectrum)

Highway Encounter is a game that I probably wouldn't have thought about playing, but it's in World of Spectrum's Top 20 games, and as the Spectrum is a bit of a blind spot for me, I thought it would make a good blog game. I can actually remember reading the review of the Commodore 64 version in ZZAP! 64, where it got a pretty decent if unspectacular review, so I wasn't coming into this completely in the dark.

Then again, I might as well have been. I had no idea what the gameplay was going to be like... although I knew that the game had a Zaxxon-esque viewpoint, it plays nothing like that. Nor is it particularly fast-paced, as you might expect from a game called Highway Encounter.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go...

The game sees Earth in the grip of an alien invasion. The only way to repel this invasion is to destroy the mothership, which is parked at the end of a highway. It's far too dangerous to send in troops, so the plan is to use a squadron of droids to transport a massively powerful bomb called the Lasertron to the mothership, where it can be detonated, and all will be well.

You start with five droids, one of which is under your direct control. I say "direct control"... that was never really the case with me! Your droid uses an Asteroids-style control method, where you rotate and then push forward to accelerate. It really takes some getting used to!

The remaining droids just plough on in a straight line, pushing the Lasertron toward its destination. That sounds great, but naturally the enemy has populated the highway with obstructions. Your job is to clear these, either by pushing obstacles out of the way or by shooting enemy droids. Or, in some instances, you actually have to block the path so that the droids don't just rush headlong into danger.

Guys! Come baaaaack! Wait for meeeeeee!

It's easier said than done. The game takes on something of a puzzling nature as you work out the best way through each screen... if you're in time. Many's the time my squad of droids went piling onto the next screen before I could get there, and when I caught up, I found them in trouble.

I found Highway Encounter to be a really interesting little game, if a difficult one. I would imagine that if you put the time in and get to grips with it, it would prove very rewarding. It was nice to play something as different as this... there's not a lot like it.

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