Highway Encounter

by Costa Panayi
Vortex Software
Crash Issue 20, September 1985   (1985-08-29)   page(s) 122,124

It's been a long time since we have received anything from this well known and widely acclaimed author; his 3D graphics are both distinctive and cleverly applied.

Highway Encounter has a simple plot. You control a droid or Vorton, which has the simple task of taking an explosive device from one end of a straight road to the enemy base at the other. If the device is successfully delivered then the enemy advance will be halted and you will have won. You view the action from an oblique aerial angle, seeing one complete section of road at a time. In all you have a total of five droids under your command, but you can only directly control one at any given time. The remaining droids are automatically programmed to push the device down the centre of the road until they meet an obstruction whereupon they come to a dead stop.

The control droid is steered in a similar way to the robot in Alien 8. To move in a given direction you must first rotate until the droid is facing the appropriate way and then move forward. This is a difficult system to come to terms with: the droid reacts as if subject to inertia, and it takes some time to accelerate to full speed and seemingly even longer to come to a halt.

At first sight the game looks very simple - so long as the road ahead is clear the explosive device and automatic droids will make their way down the middle of the road. They will only stop if their path is blocked, as it frequently will be. Most of the blockages are caused by large barrels and boxes left lying around but very soon you realise that although these objects are a pain they can in fact be put to very good use. You see, the enemy aren't just sitting back waiting for you and your bomb to turn up on their doorstep... they have some pretty smart defence systems waiting for you. The first type take the form of stationary mines, if you collide with one then you lose a droid and will have to take over one of the automatic ones. The mobile mines are a bit more of a problem, they slide back and forth across the width of the road and while you can dodge them with the controlled droid, the only way of ensuring a safe passage for the rest of your party is to block the mines in against the wall with boxes or barrels.

Generally the controlled droid can nudge objects along the road, but it is often quicker to manoeuver them into place by firing laser bolts at them. Sometimes more than one object can be moved at a time, but the whole operation becomes a lot slower. Beware of the objects that look like boxes but in fact melt when fired at. The laser fires in bolts of three blasts, each blast sending out a sort of hairy bullet thingy which hits home with devastating effect. However, after firing a burst of three bolts the laser pauses briefly to re-charge and this can be a bit of a problem when it comes to dealing with the third type of defence system - the enemy's droids.

The enemy machines come in all shapes and sizes, and some just seem to wander about while others actively hunt for you. They vary in the way they move, while some droids are prepared to try a frontal assault and are easy to take care of, others sneak up on you while their allies draw your fire. Clearing a path along the highway becomes progressively more difficult. To start with, you find it fairly easy to move items around to block the mines off, later on, not only do the mines appear in larger groups, but they move more erratically and your attempts to trap them will be hampered by ever increasing numbers of nasties attacking you.

To make matters worse the game has a time limit for completion. The amount of time remaining is shown by a bar graph on the lower part of the screen. Within the same area you are told how many droid Vortons you have left and which of the 30 zones you are in. Points are awarded according to how many droids have reached which zone. The more droids you have surviving and the nearer the end of the road they are, the more points you will score.

Control keys: 1/Q accelerate/decelerate, O/P left/right, space to fire
Joystick: Interface Two, Kempston and Protek
Keyboard play: very fast, probably better than using a joystick
Use of colour: road and objects in black and white but nice use of colour for the roadside graphics
Graphics: brilliant
Sound: some very nice effects
Skill levels: one
Lives: five
Screens: 30 and a surprise!

"I knew it, for all these years the Daleks have been given bad press. Highway Encounter gives them a chance to save a World (actually they are Vortons, but they look something like a cross between a Dalek and a dustbin, and yes, I have heard the joke). The game boasts excellent 3D praphics - Ultimate-type both in design and quality. This is a very playable and highly addictive game. I loved the introduction as well.'

"I am very impressed by this highly original and excellently designed game. The idea of having to chunter a bunch of droids down a road may sound a little boring, but wait until you try. Clearing the way through calls for a bit of thought but most of all you had better have a steady nerve when you meet the enemy droids. The lasers are devastating but their repeat rate is low, and it's all to easy to fire of a couple of panic bursts to find yourself with an 'empty' gun when it comes to killing the nasty bearing down on you. Time and time again I found myself looking for strategic spots from which to fire, some sort of cover so I could only be attacked from one direction and thus forcing the enemy into a 'killing zone'. This is a superb game, the gameplay is fast and thrilling, the graphics quick smooth and detailed; absorbing? Blotting paper doesn't even come near."

"This has to be one of the best games of the year. It has 3D graphics which would make Ultimate's hair stand on end. The clarity of the graphics was surprising - with most other 3D graphics I tend to get a bit 'lost' in them, and my eyes start playing tricks on me after a while. None of these things happened to me while I was playing this one. All the characters are very well drawn and nicely animated. There are many different types of nasty, some of which move in a set pattern, and on those screens you have to devise a routine which will get you and your 'Lazertron' across safely. When you're up against aliens which move around erratically it is best to blast hell out of them. I really enjoyed playing Highway Encounter but unfortunately I think it will be easy to complete in a short amount of time and I will probably get bored with it then."

Use of Computer: 85%
Graphics: 96%
Playability: 95%
Getting Started: 93%
Addictive Qualities: 96%
Value For Money: 84%
Overall: 95%

Summary: General Rating: Magic.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 19, October 1985   page(s) 32,33


Beep, beep! Vortex's new game, Highway Encounter goes on the road. Join Ross Holman as he follows the Highway code...

If you're looking for originality, it starts here. You've got four lives but don't expect them to sit patiently at the bottom of the screen - they're coming with you!

Here they are lining up behind the Lasertron as the master Vorton looks on. And as soon as they're off, get ready to roll yourself - you'll be riding shotgun on the road to Zone zero.

Your Vortons have run slap bang into the first barrier. You can move the oil drums by pushin' or shootin' 'em, but it's an idea to leave your troops behind them.

With the Vortons tucked up safely, you can advance alone into the next zone. There the first aliens are ready and wailing to be blasted into oblivion.

Enter this zone on the central track and prepare for battle. Three one eyed aliens come straight for you but they're pretty thick and can only move in straight lines until they hit something.

Take out the first one, then rotate to one side and catch another on the run. The last one plus a fourth straggler can be picked off as they return to this zone.

Here it's a case of the immovable objects meeting the irresistible force. The glass cubes can't be moved, so you've either got to go round them or through the gap in the middle.

Great balls of fire. Vortons aren't flameproof so steer clear of the flickering torches.

Here you'll have to use some Knightlore type tactics of moving objects around the screen. It's the only way to clear a safe passage up the middle of the road for the Lasertron.

If you let any aliens escape alive, go back and get 'em. They'll only cause trouble later if you get soft-hearted about zapping them in the back.

Push the two barrels between the pulsating mines and the brick columns. Then a few quick spurts on the laser and another sector's made safe.

First time out, it's an idea to build up confidence by taking cover behind the wall and zapping the aliens as they come past. Or you can always use the barrel as a shield. Sneaky that!

Meet the two-eyed aliens! It's an idea to fire off a few bursts from the previous zone to pick some of them off before you enter this screen. C'mon, make my day punk!

Stay cool and stop as soon as you enter the zone - then you can shoot the aliens in a calm and calculated fashion. And watch out for the tiles - you can't run over them but they make the aliens bounce a bit.

The eyes have it. Usually this zone's full of the two-eyed terrors, so wipe them out pronto. Move to either edge of the road and fire along it - they'll meet their deaths like lemmings.

Release the mine by shooting away one of the stacks and then push or shoot the other one so that the mine's trapped against the wall.

At last, an easy screen! Just watch out for the aliens and power on through.

It's all been a summer holiday up till now - from here on the meanies get really mean. Fire into the next zone to zap a few before going in - you'll hear when you hit one.

It's a good idea at this point to belt on back to the beginning and collect your spare lives and the Lasertron. They'll be safe here behind the barrels.

As you enter this zone, you'll find there'll still be a couple of aliens waiting to shoot their mouths off at you. Stay still and blast them as they move towards you.

Be extra careful if you're on your last life especially if you're pushing the Lasertron. If you're not exactly on the centre line, you'll have had your chips. Line up the centre line with the groove on the Vorton's back.

No through road! If you don't want to go to the wall, you can blast the brickwork between the flames before trekkin' on through.

A really nice touch and one that sets it apart from the Ultimate games, is that you can move objects and fire from one screen into another. But be careful if you fire behind you - you won't know what you've moved till it's too late.

It's a real doddle to deal with these mines. Shoot the right hand barrel so that the two mines are bouncing off it. Then shift it over to the left side of the road to trap them.

Don't get too trigger happy here - you can only shift the blocks by shooting them and you don't want to move them too far, do you?

It's not too tricky to trap the mines once you've used the block on the left to capture the first one Practice makes sort of perfect.

There's an alien here - a particularly vicious disc - but he's playing hide n' seek inside the blocks. A sort of out of sight out of mined!

Now you can either release the nasty and hope you do it to him before he does it to you or you can be sneaky! Blast one of the blocks so you can just see the disc, then move up on the diagonal and destroy it.

If you make it to this screen on the third time round, you'll really know what it feels like to sweat.

The discs are definitely the deadliest of your enemies so it's an idea to do the dirty on them from a safe distance - like the preceding screen.

If you raced through the last screen, you may still find some discs here. And boy, are they mad. Use the glass cubes for cover but be careful that they don't block your shots.

Cooeee, Mr Shifter. You'll need these barrels in the next zone, so don't hang about drinking cups of tea - get shifting!

This screen's all down to trial and error - and you can expect to make plenty of errors before getting it right. Go on, have another go - just one for the road!

Oh, very tricky - diagonally moving mines! Your best bet is to trap them against the left wall with from the previous zone.

Stick to the centre and the first two aliens will zoom past giving you just enough time to stop and shoot 'em. Hah!

This is a good place to beetle off back down the highway and collect the Lasertron and your spare lives - if you've got any left, of course.

Rumours that these aliens were based on Troubleshootin' Pete are completely unfounded. But watch that mouth move!

Make sure this isn't one bridge too far for you - beware the bigmouths on the bulwarks!

Use the barrels and a pile of bricks to back the mines up against the wall. You can't destroy them, so just keep them out of harm's way.

Keep that central zone clear. The Lasertron and the spare Vortons never deviate from the centre path, so make sure nothing comes in their way.

Now you're getting close but this is the calm before the storm. Best to take a breather here before the final onslaught.

Luckily the aliens are pretty gormless in this zone. Put the brakes on just past the raised tiles and pick off as many of the daft aliens as. possible.

To trap the mine you'll need to bring a pile of blocks from Zone 7 and then indulge in a spot of diagonal firing. Make sure you trap the mine on the left or your Lasertron won't go through the gap.

That great discus-thrower in the sky is at it again. Use that old technique of firing down the left hand edge.

Roll out the barrel - or rather blast them onto the next screen where they'll come in useful.

See what I mean! The best tactic here is to push the right hand barrel up the right edge and fire it diagonally towards the top of the screen to block two or three of the mines.

You'll need more barrels to form road blocks here, so nip into Zone 1 and bring them back here.

The end's in sight. Take a quick butchers then bomb off back up the road to collect the Lasertron

First things first - take care of the discs before doing anything else. And don't forget to take the barrels back to the previous zone.

Made it! Just get the Lasertron on the square and it's all over for the alien invaders

Now you can see just how dumb these one-eyed devils really are. They line up and form a guard of honour as the Lasertron goes on it's deadly mission.

The alien spaceship just doesn't stand a chance. But the aliens have one last trick up their sleeve - as soon as the ship's disintegrated, you'll find yourself right back at zone 30 for another go. The only difference is that this time the enemy's even faster and much, much meaner.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Run It Again Issue 51, April 1988   (1988-03-31)   page(s) 85

95% Issue 20

You're a lone Vorton droid, pushing a highly brainfrying explosive device to the far end of an alien highway to blow up an enemy base.

The road is populated by various aliens resembling anglepoise Lamps and other dangerous household items (I gave them all names once but that was ages ago), and floating mines weave across the tarmac in dances of death.

Your only strategy is to block up or kill off the nasties on your first run, and then go back to get your slave droids and the bomb.

Highway Encounters graphics are still impressive today; as in TLL, the combination of flat background colour and detailed monochrome overlays works very effectively. All the roadside scenery is beautifully drawn, from the crops in the fields to the golden sands of the beach. The only trouble with the game is its difficulty.

I still wonder at CRASH's comment of the time 'it will be easy to complete and I will probably get bored with it' - after 2½ years I still can't clear the 30 zones and get the bomb to its destination within the time limit.

But Highway Encounter looks great (better, in fact, than its sequel - Vortex's Alien Highway, 88%/Issue 29) and would probably still sell as a budget game.

Overall: 66%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 41, August 1985   page(s) 16

THE ORDERLY advance of the aliens to destroy civilisation as Slugger would like it to be, is given a new twist in Highway Encounter from Vortex. The aliens stick to the main road, and your job is to ferry the lasertron to their base where it will obliterate the nasties.

The twist is the combination of state-of-the-art Knight Lore graphics with straight shoot-'em-up button bashing. The lasertron is propelled by a chain of five Vortons, dalek-like robots with guns in their heads. You control one Vorton at a time, but the other four will continue to move the lasertron forward if they can, and are thus vulnerable to attack. It seems particularly devious to design a game where you can lose your other lives before you even get to play them.

There are 32 screens of 3D highway to negotiate, each one containing a problem of its own. Some involve moving oil-drums around to prepare the way for the lasertron, others are free-for-all scraps with the aliens. The most difficult involve both.

The aliens have an innocent fury about them. Some look like rejects from a remake of War of the Worlds; others resemble psychotic eggs. Vortex promises staggering effects when the lasertron is finally brought to its destructive goal.

In many respects the game is superior to Knight Lore and Alien 8, in that everything moves faster and in a true eight directions. There is colour in the screens, though not much, and most importantly, the action continues off-screen so you can't hang about for long trying to work out the best tactics. Weaknesses include less variety in the problems, and the lack of a maze - the highway is a simple straight road, easy to wander along to the end, but much more difficult to negotiate with the lasertron in tow.

It is a long time since we last saw a Vortex game - TLL and Cyclone were the last products. Highway Encounter is the best yet, innovative and addictive, and should go down a treat this summer.

Chris Bourne

Publisher: Vortex
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor


Overall: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 9, June 1988   page(s) 84

Spectrum £8.95cs
(On Best Of 3D compilation)

A terrific push-em-up here. You've got four dustbin-like robots with which you attempt to push a bomb along 30 zones of an alien-infested highway. Magnificent gameplay and a host of very tricky puzzles make this one definitely worth a look.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 47, September 1985   page(s) 26

MACHINE: Spectrum
PRICE: £7.95

Prepare for a close encounter of the fourth kind! Mix Ultimate style 3D graphics with a touch of Zaxxon and you've got this original and addictive new release from Tornado Low Level/Cyclone programmer Costa Panayi.

The scenario goes like this. Aliens have taken over earth. And you have been given the task of preventing the domination of the world. Stop yawning - I haven't got to the good bit yet!

You control five Vortons - Alien-8 style droids and the deadly Lasertron, the only weapon able to halt the alien invasion. You must guide the Vortons and the Lasertron along the last highway not controlled by the aliens - fighting off various alien warriors along the way until you reach Zone Zero where your mission has to be completed or the alien hordes will overrun earth.

The screen display shows a scrolling 3D highway - with your Vortons lined up in a neat crocodile ready to take the Lasertron to the alien base. You get five Vortons to complete the journey through 30 -"zones" or screens, controlling one at a time with joystick or keyboard.

Each Vorton is armed with a blaster to knock off the alien warriors who come at you. Run Out of Vortons and the Lasertron is lost!

As we've already mentioned, Encounter is a sort of cross between Alien 8 and Zaxxon - lots of zapping to be done and obstacles to be overcome.

The graphics are exciting and well animated, the sound as good as the Spectrum allows and game play very addictive. The Vortons are cute little characters and the aliens suitable nasty looking!

Highway Encounter is another well presented and extremely playable game from Vortex. If you like your shoot-'em-ups to have a bit of style - then this is the game for you.

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 9/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue September 1985   page(s) 31

Vortex Software
3D shoot 'em-up

Zone Zero is your goal. You have to take five Vortons there. And they in turn are trundling the world's most advanced weapons system, the pyramid shaped Lasertron in front of them. You have to get past marauding aliens, floating mines and abandoned oil-drums to destroy the invader stronghold.

The screen gives a Zaxxonesque three-quarter overhead view of a futuristic highway leading through the hydroponic fields, oxygen forests and fish-farms of he future. You start in zone 30 with a main Vorton and four auto-Vortons, plus of course your Lasertron. Your job is to troop along like a convoy of lorries carrying nuclear waste through the city at dead of night.

With the joystick or keyboard you control the main Vorton who is basically in the role of Sunday school teacher shepherding rather manic Dalek schoolchildren on a nature walk. They will charge along with their deadly toy until they run into something.

The best plan seems to be to stall the gang behind some oil drums then nip through the zones and take out the various hornswogglers, squiggles, mouffs and hostile ice-hockey pucks that assail you. Most of these creatures defy description, but are well-designed down to a gleaming reflection on the road.

There is plenty of opportunity for doing strategic things like moving oil drums around to box up the floating energy mines so that they don't hurt your crocodile of chumblies once they start charging down the highway.

At the base of the screen the display tells you which zone you are in, how many Vortons are left, and displays power, score, time left and high score.

A game for control freaks and Dalek and droid lovers everywhere.

Overall: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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