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Encounter at L-5 Review

Developer: Data Age Publisher: Data Age
Release Date: 1982 Also On:

Data Age usually doesn’t make most Atari 2600 fans think “awesome”. With games like Bugs and Journey Escape on their list of releases, you can’t really blame them. It’s a shame, because one of the most innovative and enjoyable games for the system, Frakenstein’s Monster, was released by the company. Encounter at L-5, in my opinion, is another one that deserves some more attention.

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Encounter at L-5, unfortunately, isn’t very strong in the graphics department. It’s pretty simple. Combine Space Invaders and Phoenix and this is basically the result. The spaceships look fine, but nothing special, your ship, or sorry ‘antimatter cannon’, might as well be from any other shooter, and the red ‘Death Ships’ aren’t very discernible. Is this a spider? So, this isn’t a strong point for Encounter at L-5, but it’s not like it looks bad either, the graphics do their job.

The sound is slightly better in Encounter at L-5, but it’s still the general explosions and laser firing you find in pretty much any space shooter. The cool thing is the incessant blasting of your antimatter cannon, which sounds really cool. Again, nothing unique, but it definitely sounds brutal when you turn it up. The Death Ships tweet like a number of characters from other titles. Nothing really stands out too much in the sound, but again, like the graphics they work, just nothing special.

Encounter at L-5, however, pulls it up in the gameplay. This is an interesting title, and though like combining Space Invaders with Phoenix, that’s not entirely accurate. It requires the Paddle Controller and takes an innovative approach to using an aimer. As you move your cannon it follows a square cursor at the top that marks direction and position. When you keep your cannon stationary and move, only the cursor moves, and your shots follow it. Once you take your finger off of the button, you move both the cannon and the cursor. Cool thing is, your cannon disappears briefly and is invincible for about one second once you let go of the button. This gives Encounter at L-5 some cool strategy to exploit. Wave after wave of enemy ships get faster, as does the Death Ship, so being able to quickly jump from side to side while avoiding enemy fire is critical. And you get an extra ship every 400 points, which is important at higher levels. Here’s a glimpse:

Encounter at L-5 isn’t the most creative title out there. It’s basically another Galaga-style clone, but the unique aimer approach gives it some novel play and strategy I can’t say I’ve seen elsewhere. The enemies never change and only get more difficult because of speed, but Encounter at L-5 is still a fairly solid title, just nothing new.

I really enjoy Encounter at L-5 and come back to it now and then to get higher scores. There are some difficulty options to play with, and, more importantly, it’s a very easy game to get into. You can start it out at a level to ease back into play, and then slowly build up to more advanced stages. As many 2600 games go, you play until you die.

Because of Data Age’s bad reputation, Encounter at L-5 is generally overlooked. It’s not spectacular, it doesn’t look different than most space shooters, it doesn’t sound too different, but its little intricacies of plays is where it shines, and it should be a welcome addition to any Atari 2600 fan’s collection. It’s a perfect example of a new play on old ideas that was pretty successful in the end. I’d even suggest it to the casual gamer. If you’re looking for a good shooter for the 2600 with some intense action, give Encounter at L-5 a go.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 5.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 6.9
Written by Stan Review Guide