THE ORDERLY advance of the aliens to destroy civilisation as Slugger would like it to be, is given a new twist in Highway Encounter from Vortex. The aliens stick to the main road, and your job is to ferry the lasertron to their base where it will obliterate the nasties.
The twist is the combination of state-of-the-art Knight Lore graphics with straight shoot-'em-up button bashing. The lasertron is propelled by a chain of five Vortons, dalek-like robots with guns in their heads. You control one Vorton at a time, but the other four will continue to move the lasertron forward if they can, and are thus vulnerable to attack. It seems particularly devious to design a game where you can lose your other lives before you even get to play them.
There are 32 screens of 3D highway to negotiate, each one containing a problem of its own. Some involve moving oil-drums around to prepare the way for the lasertron, others are free-for-all scraps with the aliens. The most difficult involve both.
The aliens have an innocent fury about them. Some look like rejects from a remake of War of the Worlds; others resemble psychotic eggs. Vortex promises staggering effects when the lasertron is finally brought to its destructive goal.
In many respects the game is superior to Knight Lore and Alien 8, in that everything moves faster and in a true eight directions. There is colour in the screens, though not much, and most importantly, the action continues off-screen so you can't hang about for long trying to work out the best tactics. Weaknesses include less variety in the problems, and the lack of a maze - the highway is a simple straight road, easy to wander along to the end, but much more difficult to negotiate with the lasertron in tow.
It is a long time since we last saw a Vortex game - TLL and Cyclone were the last products. Highway Encounter is the best yet, innovative and addictive, and should go down a treat this summer.
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor