Outerworld Arcade Outerworld Arcade
Space Encounters Marquee

Appreciate a cool game released a little too late...

Released in 1980, Space Encounters was one of the last games to use the 8080 CPU that had powered many of Midway's most successful games since 1975's Gun Fight. It was also one of the last Black & White raster games. With full color Galaxian, Pacman and Defender already in arcades, it looked behind the times the day it was released.

I had always been curious about this game. I was introduced to it in an advertisement on the back page of the second issue of Electronic Games Magazine. Listed along with Midway's other games of the time- Space Invaders, Wizard of Wor, Galaxian, Space Zap, Rally-X and Gorf, it was the one game I had never heard anything about. When a non-working one came up for sale locally, I had to buy it and check the game out for myself.

The game itself is quite fun. Your goal is to shoot as many enemy ships until time and your reserve ships run out. Like many racing games, you continue after time runs out with a number of ships. One unique feature of the cabinet was that it included a red light bulb and a strobe light which lit whenever you destroyed an alien ship. The tunnel that your ship flies in gives you a real sense of motion while playing the game.


Space Encounters Cabinet Space Encounters Mini

Unfortunately operators of the time didn't see much to like about it. The game players of the time were more interested in Pacman, Galaxian and Asteroids. One operator I've talked to said he sent two back because they didn't make any money.

The machines were also fragile and time has not been terribly kind to their circuitry. The strobe light and red light bulb burn out. The RAM on the motherboard goes bad. The angle encoders get flaky, making the ship impossible to control. The amps on the sound board die.

See the pages below for tips on playing the game and how to get a Space Encounters up and running again!




Enemy 1 (Rocket): 20 points + 20 points for debris
Enemy 2 (Star Trek Klingon Ship): 30 points + 30 points for debris
Enemy 3 (Space Invader): 40 points + 40 points for debris
Enemy 4 (Triangle Ship): 50 points + 50 points for debris
Enemy 5 (Alien): 250 points

Target: 100,200,300,400,500 points: Appears if at least one of the two Enemy 5 is shot before they exit the trench. Points count down from 500 and awards the higher of the two values if the digits are changing.

Speed Score: 1-20 points/second. Points are awarded faster the closer the player is to the top of the screen.

Enemy Waves:

Wave 1: 6 Enemy 1 (Rocket)
Wave 2: 10 Enemy 2 (Star Trek Klingon Ship)
Wave 3: 12 Enemy 3 (Space Invader)
Wave 4: 14 Enemy 4 (Triangle Ship)

Game continues alternating between waves 3 and 4 with enemy ships speeding up and slowing down over time.

The Alien ships show up in pairs gradually get more agressive as the game progresses, first traveling on the left side of the trench, then the center of the trench and then agressively tracking the player's ship.

Bonus Ships:

Bonus ships are awarded when the player's score added to the speed score pass three different DIP switch selected thresholds:

2000, 4000, 8000
3000, 6000, 12000
4000, 8000, 16000
5000, 10000, 20000

These reserve ships are used after the time reaches zero. When the player's reserve ships are destroyed the game is over and the final tally of the score + speed score is calculated.

Time Settings:

The player has unlimited ships until the time reaches zero. The beginning time is set by DIP switches to one of the following options:

45, 60, 75, 90

Home Versions:

Intellivsion Star Strike Intellivision Star Strike Screen

Since Space Encounters wasn't a big hit in the arcades, there was never an official home version released. However, Star Strike for the Intellivision, with the same flying down a trench perspective, could easily be called an unofficial home version.




Inspired By:

Star Wars - motion picture (1977)
Star Hawk (Cinematronics 1978)

Emulation Status:

While not 100% yet, recent work has improved the Space Encounters driver in MAME significantly. Proper emulation of the trench circuit has been completed and sounds have been added. I have scanned the artwork and thanks to the fine work of Mr. Do, it is now available for download.

Technical Information:

The main motherboard PCB is the same used in Space Invaders and other Midway 8080 games, although jumpers may need to be changed for different ROM sizes in a conversion. The daugherboard, sound and strobe PCBs are unique to Space Encounters.

PCB Pictures: (click for larger image)

Space Encounters PCB

More Space Encounters Information:


Notes on Memory Map and Program Code
Cabinet Pictures
Repairing the Strobe Unit


Space Encounters Manual

Space Encounters Links:

KLOV | Arcade Flyer Archive

Space Encounters Light Cover