Good ol' gaming expos, as you might get to play a "new" game at one of them...that's literally 30 years old.
Actually I can't recall if I had played Space Encounters or not (when it originally debuted in 1980) when I played it (several times :) ) at a gaming expo in late 2010, or if I just saw it back in the day, as I very, very vaguely remembered it once I gave it a shot.
This was yet another variant of the Space Invaders/bottom of the screen shooter genre, as you controlled a ship that moved around the bottom of the screen and shot at targets that would, little by little (if you gave 'em the chance), make their way closer to you while shooting at your ship.
Sound familiar? Well, in order not to be sued for such a rip-off, there were a few new wrinkles in this one, of course. For one thing, name one other Invaders-type game with a flight stick for a controller. Yeah, that's right, you got one of those (although on another version it had a Tron-like joystick). Your ship could also move a little bit forward and backward on the screen (like the later Gorf and Centipede) as well, rather than just side to side. You were also in a trench, like in Star Wars, and your ship looked suspiciously like a T. I. E. Fighter from those movies as well (my my, pressing your luck a little there, aren't we, Midway [the game's manufacturer]?).
However, whenever you shot something, it would turn into a flying debris mass that could be either shot or avoided; smacking into your ship would send it spiraling away briefly. (Also adding to the absurdity is what debris masses are not only doing flying your way when there's no gravity in space, but also, whether you're shooting what appear to be ships or aliens, it's still a mass of what looks like twisted metal; yeah, sure! And plus one type of enemy looks like a building too. Oh no, the evil attacking space buildings, red alert/shields up!)
Also, rather than a high scoring bonus U. F. O. appearing like in Space Invaders, what seemed to be a couple of giant aliens would come storming down the screen at you a couple of times during a game, which, if you were able to shoot one of them, that resulted in what looked like a speedometer would appear in the middle that started ticking down. However, it was actually a bonus meter, as shooting it resulted in big points, but the screen would also blind you briefly when this happened, like picking up a Berserk pack years later in the Sega 32X version of Doom. So if there's alien debris or a shot headed your way when you shoot the bonus meter, since you can't see a damn thing for a brief instant, chances are pretty good you're going to get smacked and sent spiraling off into space. Hope you took your Dramamine...
And finally, rather than having lives, the game is set on a timer: run out of time, and the next time you get hit by something, the game ends. You'll get a chance of extra bonus time if you reach certain scores, but that's pretty unlikely, although you will get a time bonus for how well you did during a game at the end though, which will increase your score.
The graphics weren't that great for back then, as only a couple of years later Star Strike for the Intellivision would come out, blowing away this game's look, which was pretty sad, considering that a home console could outdo an expensive arcade game with supposedly more power (again, the flying buildings...chuckle). However, the effect of when your ship goes flying offscreen at a high rate of speed is still impressive though. This was probably one of the last of the black and white games too, although all of this was probably made up (or so the manufacturer hoped) with flashing lights inside the cabinet and all that occurred at certain points of the game. I can't say how the sounds fared when playing this at an expo with loud music though, although the sound of your ship shooting was adequate (about all I could hear from the game), and the controls couldn't be beaten with that flight yoke controller.
The game is fairly addictive and I'm trying to rate it as it compared to games back then; probably not many people age 20 or younger nowadays would be impressed by it, but it got a bit of play at the expo, and it wasn't just by myself either. It should have done better during it's original release, in my opinion (I only saw it at one game room ever). It's a good, quick shooter fix (while dodging debris) that won't take long (due to the timer) for one player to enjoy.
Oh yes, it was for one lone pilot too...again, somewhat different for a game back then.
Scotty, one to beam up. 7/10