Review by Les Ellingham


Issue 10

Jul/Aug 84

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Novagen      16 k CASS.     1 PLAYER     32k DISK

The current vogue in software for the Atari is 3-D and most of the top arcade style games from America feature a 'three-dimensional' screen image. Zaxxon certainly started something. Whilst most of these games are very good, they only feature a 3-D effect, by using perspective and diagonal movement very cleverly. There have only been one or two games since Star Raiders which give the feel of actually moving in and out of the game but now, from the UK, comes Encounter, a truly amazing three-dimensional arcade game.

Encounter's arcade relative is undoubtedly Battlezone and anyone who has played that game will know what to expect. As the player, your view is from the forward command window of a probe ship out onto a alien battlefield. The screen is split so that roughly two-thirds shows the view outside with a score and level indicator above and an instrument panel in the lower third. At the centre of this panel is a radar scanner on which the enemy craft can be located. Either side are warning lights indicating the presence of an enemy craft. Yellow indicators flash when an enemy is in range and the blue indicator flashes when the enemy is firing at you. Outside, the battlefield stretches to the mountains on the far horizon and at various points there are huge cylindrical obelisks which will block your path and shots, but which if used properly can protect you from enemy attack.

So far perhaps, a fairly ordinary alien scenario, one which, given the exaggerated descriptions applied to most computer games, could be any one of a number of alien combat games. Press the start button though and you will realise that Encounter is a mile ahead of almost any space game you have seen so far. As you move the joystick left and right, the whole view outside the window scrolls and when you push the joystick forward you move into the landscape. Those tiny obelisks grow and grow until you either dodge them or crash into them coming to a thundering halt. Pull back on the stick and you reverse away from the battlefield but, and here is one of the things that sets Encounter apart, many of the obelisks are now behind you and you can crash into them as you reverse. This is 3-D. Not only in front of you on the screen where you can see but also off screen in all directions. Whilst you are still marvelling at the movement of your craft, the first of the enemies will appear, a flying saucer hovering above ground and moving randomly over the battlefield dodging between and behind the pillars. You must shoot and destroy it before it fires at you. If it should fire a whole stream of fire-balls will speed towards you but if you can turn aside quickly enough they will continue on their straight trajectory and drift aside. It is hard to describe the movement but some very complex mathematics approximate the real-life situation, another of Encounters remarkable features. The second type of enemy is a missile which you cannot stalk or track. It is a homing missile and its presence is indicated by flashing red lights on the instrument panel and a menacing whine as it approaches weaving from side to side. Your best tactic is to back away and try to keep it in sight until, right at the last possible moment, as it looms huge and menacing on the screen, you fire and destroy it.

There are a random number of enemies, up to 19, to destroy on the first level before you can reach the next level. When all enemies are destroyed a black rectangle appears (a Star Gate?) through which you must pass. You accelerate through a black void with brightly coloured spheres hurtling towards you steering desperately to avoid them until at last you begin to slow and finally emerge on to a landscape of different dramatic colour with enemies whose strategy is more advanced and who will be more difficult to destroy.

There is much, much more in Encounter than can be mentioned in a review. The graphics are superb, sound is used to maximum effect, the game play is well thought out and the proficiency of programming difficult to fully grasp. Your friends who bought other machines will regret their decision when they see you playing Encounter on your Atari. You will be impressed even if you have all the top American games. Encounter is quite simply the best arcade game to have been released for the Atari at 9.95 and you would have to search far and wide for for a better game at any price.