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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!.

This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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