Alien Highway

by Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, Chris Clover
Vortex Software
Crash Issue 29, Jun 1986   page(s) 23

Producer: Vortex
Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Mark Haigh-Hutchinson

Alien Highway was written 'by popular demand' as a sequel to Highway Encounter and is a souped up, modified version of the original game.

This time your target is the Alien Empire, a vast complex which is essential to the aliens' survival. Once again, you are in control of a droid, or Vorton, but this time there are no lives - a single robot is supplied and it has to be recharged from power points along the highway, as contact with the aliens or their weapons saps vital energy.

The ultimate aim of the game is to shove a mightily powerful explosive device - The Terratron - all the way down the highway to the gates of the Alien HQ where it can detonate and rid the world of nasties (until the next game, at least). The Vorton accelerates forwards at great speed but slows down quite slowly if left to its own devices, so some nifty control manipulating is called for to make it behave according to your wishes. As before, the Vorton has to be pointed in the right direction and then moved.

The Aliens have learnt their lesson from Highway Encounter - the road to the Empire is littered with obstacles and alien nasties. To add to the fun, the edges of the highway are electrified and burn a clumsy Vorton touching them to a frazzle. Once again, certain objects on the roadway can be moved by firing at them with your lasers and then used to block the path of some aliens, ensuring a safe passage for the Vorton and Terratron.

'Hairy lasers' are still fitted as standard equipment on Vortons, and make suitably short work of aliens. En route, the Terratron must be re-charged seven times so that it's in tip-top condition when it arrives at the Alien Empire: keep an eye out for the Regeneration Stations.

The status area at the bottom of the screen shows how low your energy levels are getting, the time that remains in which to complete the mission and how many of the seven re-generations your Terratron has been given. Without the full complement of regenerations the barrier guarding the alien complex is impassable.

The new highway spans thirty screens, as before, but this time there's a random element which governs the way the game sets up - map-makers won't have it all their own way!


Control keys: A decelerate, Q accelerate, K left, L right, SPACE/M/Z fire, P pause, G quit
Joystick: Kempston, Protek/AGF, Interface 2
Keyboard play: straightforward and responsive
Use of colour: sparse
Graphics: tidy and well animated
Sound: spot effects only
Skill levels: one
Screens: 30

Yeah? This one is very nice; it forms a worthy successor to Highway Encounter. The graphics are excellent, and move beautifully smoothly. Alien Highway is a real pleasure to play; the level of difficulty has been pitched just right to make it frustrating, yet fabulously addictive. I can't really find much fault with it. A tune could have improved it a little, but the spot effects are satisfactory and the playability and addictiveness make up for any aural deficiency.

Vortex's last release, Highway Encounter, was brilliant. Now the follow-up has arrived and can they keep up the standard? I'm glad to say they can. Although the game looks like its forerunner and is based on the same idea, I like it. Vortex have chucked in a new storyline and a few new sprites to contend with. You still have to advance up the highway, and the game is fun and challenging. Graphically, it is excellent with lots of nice touches like the shrinking aliens. Getting the hang of moving around can be a bit tricky at first, but after a few games you should find it easy enough to control your droid. Some people may say that Alien Highway is a bit too much of a copy of Highway, but as far as I'm concerned the game is ace, and fun to play.

I was a great fan of Highway Encounter. This is basically the same game as its predecessor although there have been some great improvements made to the gameplay. Graphically there are a lot of similarities, but it's logical to use the same sort of Aliens I suppose. The characters are full of detail and well animated. While the backgrounds are not as varied as I would have liked, they are certainly well drawn. The sound effects are minimal: only the odd beep now and then when you lose a life or zap a nasty. If you liked Highway Encounter then you'll certainly like this - if you haven't seen HE, then I strongly recommend this game. The only problem that I can possibly forsee is that it might be a little easy.

Use of Computer: 89%
Graphics: 87%
Playability: 87%
Getting Started: 89%
Addictive Qualities: 89%
Value for Money: 88%
Overall: 88%

Summary: General Rating: Another one for Highway Encounter fans everywhere.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 7, Jul 1986   page(s) 35


We're off to burn rubber down that Alien Highway again so put on some C&W (Cannery and Wasteland) music as your tin trucker risks white line lever in an attempt to save the earth from that awful Alien aggressor.

At long last here's a sequel to the smash hit Highway Encounter and it too looks assured of a collision course with the top of the charts despite the fact that in many respects it's highly reminiscent of its predecessor.

Unlike last time though, your valiant Vorton, a sort of truncated Dalek, has no train of extra lives to guide through the pitfalls of the path. Instead thews a single Terratron to push before you, negotiating nasties and avoidinh obstacles as they obstruct your progress.

The eventual destination of this daring mission is the interior of the Alien Industrial Complex where - the blurb tells us - 'the Terratron will reveal its awesome power' which bodes well for the final screen. But before the secret can be revealed you face a journey down the highway to Hull (well, that's an industrial centre, isn't it?) so follow the yellow brick road.

Actually I've not noticed any primrose in the path yet but the monochrome graphics, seen from above, Ultimate style, are as effective as ever. You'll also meet some old fiends, as you glide along, in the shape of the 'orrible eyeball monsters. Something about the way they sneak and weave around, keeping out of your line of fire, makes them appear very much alive. Unlike these creepy, cowardly optician's nightmares, the angular kamikaze aliens rush in where eyeballs fear to tread and head straignt for you. Luckily you're well armed with a front firing laser and you'll need it.

Your journey isn't a short one but instead of finding Esso stations en route you'll encounter Terratron regeneration points. Drive the little doobrie through these - there are seven in all - keep it energized and win yourself a nice little power bonus into th bargain.

P'raps I'm just not the sort of pupil BSM would want but I must confess to finding the Vorton a veritable fiend to control. No stopping on a sixpence with this automaton since either momentum or slack keyboard responses mean that it's got a ticket to ride. On the whole there's more of the shoot 'em up about Encounter II than there was about its predecessor.

That said I still found it extremely addictive, despite the apparent lack of variety in the sections that make up the road. After all, when you've tackled one arrangement of obstacles you don't really want to go through the whole caboodle again, do you? Well, maybe you will with a game as good as this. For some reason I kept on returning to it and reloading to have just one more go. I still don't know what lies in wait for the finale but until I find out I'll just keep right on to the end of the road. Vroooom!

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Graphics: 9/10
Playability: 8/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 51, Jun 1986   page(s) 43

Publisher: Vortex
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K

Highway Encounter was excellent with just enough problem solving, first rate graphics and some very engaging monsters - it was almost a pleasure to be zapped, they had so much personality.

The basic plot was simple - you controlled five Dalek-like robots, pushing a bomb down a rather strange Zaxxon-style scrolling road. Arrayed against you were various very well animated sprite aliens, and ingenious problems along the lines of 'How do I get through the chicane while avoiding the moving spark?'. All under threat of a time limit.

With Alien Highway Vortex has taken a lesson from Hollywood: if they like the plot once, they'll like it again - just change a few of the minor characters, and shift the scenery around a bit.

This shouldn't be taken to mean that I don't like Alien Highway - I love it. It has all the addictive qualities that made Highway Encounter one of the best games of last year.

A couple of changes have been made: instead of having five robots - or Vortrons - you have one. An indicator at the left of the screen gives you your current energy level; you lose energy by being hit by aliens, and by running into certain of the obstacles. You get your energy back by pushing the Terratron - the bomb with which you hope to damage the aliens' industrial heartland, I kid you not - into special recharging stations. Reach zero energy and goodbye, cruel world.

Controls are simplicity itself - accelerate/decelerate, fire, turn left or right. Take note of the advice on the cassette insert, which suggests you use keyboard control; you really can't get the sort of accuracy you need using a joystick. To avoid some of the dangers in this game you need instant response.

The panel beneath the view of the road is used for various indicators - an energy gauge, a status computer which flashes you messages (the only one I've had so far is 'energy low' - as if I hadn't noticed!), time left and the number of times you've pushed your friendly little bomb into one of the regeneration refuelling stations that you'll find en route to glory. You must get it into seven stations to prime it properly.

Unlike Highway Encounter, the arrangement of the screens in Alien Highway is supposed to be random every time you play the game - but this isn't quite true. The highway seems to be built up of pairs of screens, and it is possible to get a pretty good idea of what's coming up so long as you can recognise the first screen of a pair.

Another point to remember is that if you come across any barrels, it's more than likely that you are going to need them pretty soon to block one of the shuttling blobs that regularly fly across or up and down the highway.

After the first four or five screens; don't shoot off the edge (ie into the next screen) unless you know what's there. There's a particularly nasty bottleneck with a barrel situated just in the right position to block your passage altogether if you accidentally push it a couple of squares.

It's fiendishly hard, and some of the problems will have you tearing your hair.

Overall: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 56, Jun 1986   page(s) 14,15

MACHINE: Spectrum/Amstrad
PRICE: £7.95 (Spectrum), £8.95 (Amstrad/£13.95 disc)

We're back on the road again thanks to the Vortex crew.

They've just released the sequel to their totally addictive Highway Encounter. The dustbin-like Vortons are back - as are the dreaded Alienson a new highway twice as deadly as the original.

The aliens were defeated at the end of Highway Encounter - that's if you were good enough to actually finish the original game! Now the Vortons are out to exact their revenge on the Aliens' home planet.

But this time you only get one Vorton instead of four!

His mission is to strike at the heart of the alien Empire which lies at the end of the Alien Highway.

The Vorton is pushing along a device deadly to the Aliens called a Terratron which, according to the blurb, will reveal its terrible power at the end of the road.

Bot the Vortron and the Terratron must be energised along the road by contacting seven hour glass shaped regeneration stations. This is vital - you simply won't make it to the end if you don't.

The Vorton's energy levels - displayed at the left hand side of the screen - are depleted by contact with the alien Zeds and nasty Kamikaze droids. And even the sides of the highway are deadly this time!

Game action is very similar to Highway Encounter, controlling your Vorton is just as tricky and there are lots of graphically interesting traps and barriers along the way.

Graphics are as good as the original, and game play just as addictive. After you've loaded the game you get a neat guide to all the aliens and obstacles you'll come across on your mission. Unfortunately you can't call this up again once you've hit the enter key to get to the control option screen. Sometimes you really need to check out what's attacking you during the game - especially during your first efforts.

Although it's pretty similar to Highway Encounter, this game is still fun and challenging to play. But all your old winning techniques have to go out of the window, I'm afraid! Another winner from Vortex.

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 8/10
Playability: 9/10

Award: C+VG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 5, May 1986   page(s) 18

Spectrum & Amstrad
Spectrum: £7.95, Amstrad: £8.95

Having seen off the Aliens in Highway Encounter, you have decided to deal with the baddies at source. Once again you control the Vorton and must guide the ultimate weapon, the Terratron, up the highway. Naturally, the surroundings are then suitably abstract and alien and the baddies are faster and thicker on the ground.

Each time you play the game, the set-up is different. While sometimes that leads to virtually impossible situations, it prevents boredom. You have to energise your Terratron, which you are pushing up the highway. That also re-energises your Vorton, to replace energy lost by collision with the border and the aliens. After a dearth of good Spectrum releases, this will be up there with the rest of the recent surge.

Graphics: 5/5
Sound: 2/5
Playability: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 27, Jul 1986   page(s) 16


Vortex Software

Alien Highway is Vortex's follow up to their earlier hit, Highway Encounter and continues the saga of Earth versus the Aliens with you as the hero of the hour in control of the Vorton robot.

In Highway Encounter the Aliens were attacking Earth, but this time around their attack has been thwarted and the Vorton is retaliating by preparing to strike deep into the Alien's own empire where a final attack on their Industrial Complex should put paid to their hash once and for all.

As is the way with sequels this one looks remarkably similar to the original. The highway along which you have to travel with the Vorton looks just like the one in the earlier game, and the types of obstacles and aliens that you'll have to deal with are also much the same. For those who are unfamiliar with Highway Encounter, the Vorton is a small Dalek-like robot which glides along the highway pushing the Terratron along in front of it. The Terratron is a little pyramid shaped object which is your secret weapon and which will burst into action when you reach your final destination. The hard part is getting the Terratron all the way along the highway.

Controlling the Vorton is relatively simple, just accelerate/decelerate, rotate left/right and fire (though I wasn't all that keen on the choice of keyboard controls which aren't redefinable). As long as you're in line with the Terratron it will trundle along in front of you, but as soon as you start to dodge around in order to avoid the aliens and other obstacles you're almost certain to lose control of it which means that having successful navigated down a dangerous stretch of highway, the chances are that you'll just have to go back to pick up the Terratron again.

The graphics are drawn in a quite distinctive style that lends the game much of its flavour. If you can imagine a futuristic and rather less cute version of Knight Lore then that's what this looks like.

As with Knight Lore, you've got a slightly overhead. 3-D perspective view of the highway, but instead of enclosed rooms you're given a short stretch of the highway which travels from the bottom left to top right of the screen. On each side of the highway is a force field which drains the Vorton's energy whenever you collide with it, as does contact with the aliens.

Trying to control the Vorton (which has a habit of going wildly out of control if you're not careful), and keep the Terratron in tow at the same time as dodging the obstacles and zapping the aliens will keep you pinned to your keyboard or joystick for quite a while. This is the sort of game that starts off slowly enough but then gets hectic as everything starts to gang up on you.

One feature that I wasn't too keen on is that you only have the one life to play with. The Vorton has a limited amount of energy and when this is drained the game ends. It is possible to recharge at points along the highway, as there are energization stations at which you build up the Terratron's own energy levels, but if you get caught in a sticky corner of the highway all your energy can be drained in one or two seconds.

This means that you can get a long way into the game only to see all your effort wasted by one wrong move, so I think a couple of extra lives would have helped improve the game's addictiveness. Other than that, the only criticism of the game that I can think of is that it is so similar to its predecessor. If you've got Highway Encounter then you might be reluctant to shell out more money for a game that is so similar, but if you haven't played the earlier game then Alien Highway is a classy and challenging shoot 'em up.

Overall: Great

Award: ZX Computing Globella

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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