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NOVAGEN £20.42 Joystick

A few years ago, when the Amiga 500 was a young machine, a game appeared named Backlash. The premise of the game was to move around a strange, alien landscape blasting anything that moved. Backlash was the sequel to a C64 game called Encounter, which at the time was praised for its swift 3D action and simple, exciting Battlezone-type gameplay. Now, after many years, Amiga owners can also enjoy this classic release.

Solid pleasure
Amiga Encounter puts you in control of a high-speed, tank-like craft, which zooms around the planet surface littered with metallic pillars. White portals appear to release alien fighters, which then zoom around the planet firing volleys of shots in the direction of your craft. You must dodge their shots and blast them to bring your target total down. Occasionally, the aliens will fire a guided-missile, which will lock onto your position and home in at great speed. On higher levels they even start to get smart and dodge sideways to avoid your shots!

Once you have killed the specified number of targets, another portal will open. This leads to a warp to the next planet. Unfortunately the warp is littered with meteorites. Any collision with these space-rocks reduces your shield and warps you back to the previous world.

Step back in time
Although the game is an old release and a fairly straight forward concept, it contains a surprising amount of excitement. The speed of the action is rather impressive, with the landscape whipping around your craft at a frightening rate.

The general appearance of the game is simple, but the atmospheric use of colour and the sheer speed of gameplay give the game a great overall feel. The original was a massive hit on the C64 and Paul Woakes has managed to carry the fast action and gripping gameplay that made it a success onto the Amiga.

It may not be exactly state-of-the-art Amiga programming, but the pure, simplistic enjoyment makes the game great fun. Amiga Encounter brings a classic video game feel to players who would otherwise miss out. If you're a slightly older gameplayer that remembers shoving piles of money into Battlezone arcade machines, then treat yourself to a bit of nostalgia. If, on the other hand, you don't remember that far back, Amiga Encounter may give you a quick lesson in computer-game history, not to mention a great deal of fun!

Encounter: In-game Control panel
1. INCOMING - Flashes when an enemy fires at you.
2. CRAFT WARNING - Flashes when a ship is released from a portal.
3. RADAR - Shows the position of portals and enemy craft.
4. MISSILE WARNING - Flashes when an enemy missile is tracking you.
5. TRACKING - Scroll depending on the direction of movement.

Wiedersehen macht Freude?

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Wer "Backlash" oder "Damocles" kennt, der kennt auch Paul Woakes. Aber wer Paul Woakes kennt, der kennt nicht unbedingt auch dessen Erstlingswerk. Es sei denn, er hätte vor sieben Jahren einen C64 bzw. Atarix XL gehabt...

Also wiedermal ein Oldie im neuen 16-Bit-Gewand - sowas kann gutgehen, wie bei "M.U.L.E." und seiner Reinkarnation "Traders", meist geht es aber in die Hose, wie unzählige Beispiele von "Defender II" bis "Stellar 7" belegen. Diesmal haben wir es zumindest nicht mit einem Totalreinfall zu tun, was das Baller-Spektakel hauptsächlich seinem Tempo zu verdanken hat: Encounter war bereits am 64er höllisch schnell, am Amiga erreicht es fast schon Lichtgeschwindigkeit!

Der Spieler pilotiert ein "Stargate"-Mobil über die endlosen Flächen acht verschiedener 3D-Arenen und ist dabei dem Nonstop-Angriff gegnerischer UFOs ausgesetzt. Die werfen mit normalen Schüssen, zielsuchenden Geschoßen und Smartbombs nur so um sich; man selber tut es ihnen nach, nur mit entgegengesetzter Zielrichtung. Herumstehende Säulen verleihen der Angelegenheit eine gewisse taktische Note, weil man damit Schüsse umlenken oder sich dahinter verstecken kann; dazu gibt es kleine Zwischensequenzen, in denen das Gefährt durch Asteroidenfelder bugsiert werden muß.

Das ist ja alles recht lustig, aber man merkt halt doch, daß es hier nur um die Neuauflage eines uralten Games handelt - die Grafik wirkt angestaubt, ebenso die spärlichen Soundeffekte oder die Düdelmusik. Trotzdem kehrt man immer wieder gerne auf ein schnelles Adrenalinstößchen zurück... (mm)

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The story behind this, if I remember it all correctly, is a bit of an odd one. Encounter is an ancient Atari XL/C64 game (a 'classic', if you will) from author Paul Woakes, who of course later went on to fame and fortune etc with Mercenary, Damocles et al. Amiga Encounter, on the other hand, is an all-new 16-bit version of the same thing - a real early arcade-style throwback, with the incredibly simple gameplay spiced up by, well, by extra colour, and some swishier sound and, um, that's about it really. Novagen have gone for a quiet sort of release with it too, apparently preferring the idea of old fans just lucking upon it in the shops rather than reading about it in magazines and going out specifically to buy a copy.

So how's their plan worked out? Well, the blast-from-the-past gameplay will be a breath of fresh air to a certain sort of pure-reactions, adrenalin-loving arcade gamesplayers, that's for sure. The idea (viewed from a first person perspective) is that you are driving (or something) multi-directionally across the surface of a fast scrolling 3D world, ducking behind these sort of pillar affairs as they appear on the landscape, firing at the enemies (floating squares of light, flying saucers and other futuristic shapes), then popping into a nearby stargate for a bit of quick asteroid dodging, before emerging again for the next, trickier level.

Yes, it really is a sort of abstract Battlezone if ever there was one - not really perhaps quite what we expect for twenty odd quid these days (it plays no faster and really looks little different to the C64 version, for instance) but absorbing fun nonetheless. It wears its simplicity on its sleeve like a badge, and you have to admit, the fast-moving cat-and-mouse chase aspect is very absorbing indeed - it's a bit like playing one of those paintball games, all ducking and diving behind things, firing blindly, constantly watching your back and so on. Novagen claim 'the first person perspective view has you ducking away from the screen in reaction' and, d'you know, they're actually right. An advert for the virtues of simplicity and pure, un-faffled-about-with-gameplay if ever there was one.

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Blimey, this takes me back a bit! One of the first games I ever had on my trusty but now deceased (sniff!) C64, Encounter was also the first game to appear from the Howard Hughes of the programming world, Paul Woakes and was the prelude to such classics as Mercenary and the much-delayed Damocles.

Quite why Novagen have released it on the Amiga, though, eludes me. For those of you either too young to remember Mr. Woakes' aforementioned 8-bit classic, Encounter is basically an extension of the age-old Battlezone scenario, and when it was originally released, was praised for its (then) stunning fast filled graphics - and the lack of glitch associated with the genre. Unfortunately, what you considered hot and stunning in the old days now looks decidedly dated.

The basic idea of the game is to patrol an oddly-coloured desert and take out the enemy spaceships and missiles before they get to you. However, punctuating the barren landscapes are a series of metallic columns, and these can be used to deflect shots and to hide behind. And that's it.

Each level plays host to a set number of enemy craft, and once these have been cleared, it's off to an asteroid field for a spot of debris dodging before access to the next suitably gaudy stage is granted.

Although this may sound a little damning, there's no doubt that Encounter is a playable little blast. The graphics, whilst not pushing back any barriers, are smoothly updated and the enemy ships are fast and deadly. The trouble is that there just isn't enough to do, and when you consider that Novagen are asking twenty-odd quid for it, I don't think that pure nostalgia offers enough for your money.