Publisher: Vortex Software, 1985
Developer: Costa Panayi for the ZX Spectrum (converted for the Amstrad CPC464 by Mark Haigh-Hutchinson)
Coded for the Spectrum by cult hero Costa Panayi, whose other credits included Android 1, Android 2, Deflektor and Revolution, and published by Vortex Software in 1985, Highway Encounter is a great example of original thought and beautiful 3D design providing rewarding and engrossing gameplay.
The aim of the game was to destroy the enemy spacecraft by pushing an explosive device called a Lasertron through 30 enemy zones all the way down the highway to zone zero, where the device would trundle off on its own to perform its deadly work. In the program's own words:
Take the Lasertron beyond zone zero to encounter and destroy the alien stronghold
You see, it's a highway, and you encouter the alien on it. Ah, the simplicity of 8-bit gaming
Employed to push the Lasertron down the highway to its destiny were a row of dalek-esque robots called Vortons. Your job was to control the main Vorton, while the remaining auto-vortons provided back-up, monotonously and robotically shuffling along behind the small pyramid of the Lasertron, the procession moving gently onwards until stopped by one of the road's many obstacles. Forging ahead with the main Vorton, you had to eliminate the various aliens en route, while trapping any you couldn't shoot down, allowing the Laserton a free path.
The highway was a gloriously presented 3D grid, down which you rode, rotating, accelerating and braking to steer the main Vorton, while the enemies darted back and forth, hoping to make contact with, and thereby destroying, one of your Vortons. Put a time limit on the whole operation and you have one distinctly uneasy task. Your reward for finishing the game? A rerun down the highway, this time faster and harder.
Highway Encounter scored 95 per cent in Amstrad Action, 92 in Amtix!, and another 95 score in Crash! Magazine
Having more perseverance in my youth than now, I finished Highway Encounter - a rare success in my otherwise mediocre gaming heritage.
On the back of the game's success, a sequel, Alien Highway: Encounter 2, was released the following year. It was more of the same plus a bit more - the sides of the highway were now as deadly as the aliens, and instead of a series of Vortons you only had one to shepherd around, renewing energy at the various regeneration points you had to reach along the way in order to give the Lasertron enough energy to again have its wicked explosive way.
Would you like to know more?
- Fans of the game can stoke the memory fire with a map of all the zones at http://perso.club-internet.fr/west/Nostalgie/highway/highway.html