Monday, March 28, 2016

Highway Encounter

1985 has come knocking!!

Here we have one of my all-time favourite 8-bit games from the brilliant mind of Costa Panayi, Vortex Software. It's an understatement to say I was flabbergasted when I read an old post on Atari-Forum concerning the unreleased ST game; developed in 1990 by the late Mark Haigh-Hutchinson. Sadly, Vortex was unable to find a publisher, so that was that and it was left to gather dust for years, which is terrible when you think about it!

I always had a soft spot for Vortex and fondly remember playing Android, Cyclone and Revolution but Highway Encounter was definitely my favourite. Set on a stretch of highway populated by crazy baddies, tricky puzzles and many other obstacles to get in your way. Aliens have invaded and our robot convoy has the task of merrily pushing a bomb down the highway in order to destroy their mothership, which is at the other end of the road.

Funny tidbit, I remember making a basic map of back in the day. Very crude but I was pleased with the progress. Well, until I saw a beautiful screen-captured version in one of the magazines. Typical... Anyhow, there's a link to the Atari ST map right at the bottom of the page for all interested.

Guide our little friends the best you can, they have very dangerous cargo!

Road rage!

Highway Encounter hasn't been changed with bloatware and remains pretty much the same as on the ZX Spectrum. The obvious improvements are with the graphics; gone are the monochrome visuals for a world of technicolour. The highway and your objective remain the same and lots of whacky aliens are roaming freely along this stretch of road. Our droid colleagues are still daft and will get stuck on objects but this can actually be good: leave them behind - in safety - so you're free to clear the highway ahead of the dreaded aliens.

I find joystick control the best and if you love isometric games then you'll be right at home - left and right rotates, forward to accelerate and pulling back slows you down [or stops you dead]. Your weapon is a type of ultra-cool energy bolt which can also be improved upon thanks to power-ups lying along your road trip journey. Can you manage to kill the aliens and make it all the way to the end of this motorway of madness?

There is also an editor to create your own highway. This is something I've yet to play with but I'd be interested if any of you guys have used it. Let me know in the comments below!

Some wobbly things are approaching! Let's kill 'em!!

Speccy aesthetics?

Visually, this is a joy with old-fashioned graphical values that takes me back. In fact, I'm transported to 1985 with its authentic style which has been updated yet preserved using a gorgeous palette that isn't over the top.

Back in the 80s, isometric games were the in-thing and this was one of the most beautiful examples of that genre. The sprites are as crazy as ever, making you appreciate the finer details of what was achieved. Better still, the ST has taken the original idea and bettered it. Purists will disagree. They are wrong.

As for the audio, music would have spoilt the atmosphere completely and instantly muted. This shooter is all about careful planning and strategy so it has to be sound effects. Thankfully, they are made from samples and perfectly futuristic for all the zapping that is needed. I supposed it's all quite minimalistic but it works. I love them!

Those guys are almost too cute to kill. But let's kill 'em anyhow. Do you see a theme here?

The CryptO'pinion?

Let's take an 8-Bit moment to think about this: we have an Atari ST version of Costa Panayi's excellent shoot 'em up. What's more, the original game has been bettered with marvellous, faithful gameplay and improved aesthetics. What more could you ever desire? Unlike many, this is how all 16-Bit remakes should have been - awesome!

Highway Encounter will always be a Crash Smash and the Atari ST has gained an exquisite remake.

Download for floppy / hard drive (ultrasatan)

AtariMania has an awesome map!

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