Best Games - Encounter!
I played Encounter on an Atari 800 computer. I played it a lot.
It would be 10 years before Id software would recapture,with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, the fluid control, speed and heart pounding tension of Encounter.
Paul Woakes, seemingly alone, created what is probably the original first person shooter experience. There are certainly first person games that came before Encounter, and it would be easy to claim that Encounter is a clone of BattleZone. Where BattleZone is ponderous and methodical, Encounter plays more like the ancestor of Serious Sam. At least fifty percent of the time you will be backpedaling at breakneck speed away from a charging enemy. Attempting to lead targets is made more difficult due to their erratic, relentless behaviour. The action quickly becomes teeth grindingly intense when you realise that you just backed into one of the, ever present, pillars. You have milliseconds to dislodge yourself and escape. You probably won’t. Your game will end with a deafening blast of digital static.
That is the most striking and enduring element of Encounter!. The sound. While the small variety of diamond, circle, and square shapes in the game don’t really drive fear into our hearts anymore, the sounds still do. There is an odd sort of mystery to Encounter. While the rising tone of the kamikaze enemy screaming toward you still holds up, it is the foreboding growl of the level end portal that sticks in my head. A black square spreads it’s maw in front of you, like a rip in space. The game doesn’t reward you for completing a level, it dares you to advance. Even moving from one level to the next is an arduous task, where you have to navigate a barrage of obstacles just to be unceremoniously dumped out of another portal, into god knows where. The ominous and unsettling sound is ever present.
Go find an emulator, since 8 bit Atari computers are probably hard to come by, and try out Encounter!.
Best Games - Magical Drop 3
Every colour is sharp and vibrant. Staccato notes sing over a bouncing march. It sounds like joy.
Your moves are quick and precise. The tones rise with each consecutive match. 1. 2. 3. Your pace drops as you search for your next move. 1 quarter second to late. You miss. Not quick enough. You rearrange the board, making single matches looking, again, for an opening to line up a new combo. You see two reds beside three blues. Above them is a layer of green. You pull down a solitary red from the far side of the board and dash quickly back under the pair. 1. Don’t wait for the chime! Move! You pull down the blues and instantly fling them back up. 2. You have bought a fraction of a second. The reds have faded from the board and you are already there pulling down a single green. Quickly, back to the blues. You toss the green back up, aiming to steamroll the still fading blues. 3. Don’t wait for the green to collide. There is a gold, one step to the right. You twitch right and pull it down. As the greens fade you twitch back to the left and toss it back up through the sparkling mist. 4.
You run out of moves. The other spheres are two or three moves away. It could be miles. The last, highest, tone fades. You restart the process of setting up the board, clearing a line here and there. Holding off the stomping, inevitable, march of the bubbles. Looking for an opportunity for five, or even six. Next time, you will be faster. Never fast enough. You will strategize to the point of clairvoyance. Never enough. It feels like joy.