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HIGHWAY ENCOUNTER - Preview
Highway Encounter has a simple plot. You control a droid or Vorton, which has the simple task of takin an explosive device from one end of a straight road to the enemy base at the other. If the device is succesfully 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 read 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 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 the 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 turnp 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 colide 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 looks like boxes but in fact melt when fired at. The laser fires in bolts of three blasts, each blast sending out a sort of hairly 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 size, and some just seem to wander about while others actively hunt for you. They vary in the way theymove, 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 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 limit time 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 may 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.