Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Choplifter first appeared as a coin-op way back in the early eighties, and only after success in the arcades did it then surface on the eight-bit computers a few years later. The Sega version didn't take to the skies until 1985, so in spite of it's fresh faced good looks this one's a real golden oldie! A wrinkly, in fact.
As you'd expect, the idea is pretty simple: as the best chopper pilot of all time, you have been given the task of rescuing prisoners of war from behind enemy lines. These poor saps are incarcerated in high-security buildings, and are guarded by ground-based guns, missile silos, tanks, ships, planes - you name it, it's there and firing at you!
Starting from the helibase on the far right of the scene, you have to guide the chopper left across the landscape, blasting everything that looks the slightest bit dangerous as you go. Each time you score a direct hit on one of the prisons (which take the shape of buildings, ships and even subs), the prisoners swarm or swim out, and mill around until you land and pick them up. But even while you're on the ground things are still hairy - you only have a few seconds before a tank or ship crawls on screen to take pot shots at you!
As soon as you've picked up a full load, it's just a swift flight back to base to land and let them off. However, your chopper can only hold 16 men in one load, and 40 men have to be rescued before you can move onto the next scene, so it's back in the air, flyboy!
You start with three choppers, and once your last heli has been downed, the mission ends. Not only that, but if you lose 25 or more men (either by being shot down with escapees on board, by accidentally blasting them yourself, or even landing on them) the mission ends, no matter how many choppers you have left.
There are three different scenes to be completed, which appear twice making six missions in all. After a quick zoom over the first, desert landscape, you are then posted to an aircraft carrier for some air-to-sea manoeuvres, and then back on land, where your pilots' skill are tested in the close quarters of a volcanic cave system. Then it's back to the desert again and so on - as long as you survive that long...
Choplifter sure is a feast for your peepers with no fewer than six layers of smooth parallax scrolling for that realistic 3D effect. There's also some neat animation on the hostages and the chopper when it gets hit, hurtling earthwards as a twisted heap of burning metal, and exploding as it hits the ground or splashes into the ocean.
Control over the helicopter is dead tricky, since it flies in a similar(ish) fashion to the real thing, and has some wicked inertia - it'll take a couple of goes just to get the hang of the controls! And even though it looks and sounds quite simple, Choplifter really is a tricky fish. There's no way you can just go speeding in with all guns blazing: if you don't work out some mid-air tactics, or at least a plan of action, you'll just get wasted.
Completing all six missions remains a meaty proposition, and should you manage that, there's still plenty of ammo here for high score freaks, too! So if you like your shoot 'em ups hard but with a touch of class, try giving this old cart' a good home!
Gosh, that was fun, Binky. I say, who are all those people running about?
Quick! It's okay, guys. If we run to this end of the ship we can... Oh. Someone's nicked the lifeboat! Er. I can't swim, can you?
▲ Superb parallax scroll. Dead smooth and well impressive!
▲ There’s some lovely animation on the 11-pixel-tall prisoners!
▼ The backdrops are very plain and occasionally too colourful
▼ The enemy are too static
▲ Stirring soundtracks help to maintain the offensive (or summat...)
▼ There's only three different tunes
▲ Good chopper blade effect, and some nice explosions
▼ Pity about the bomb and machine gun sounds, though...
▲ The gamepiay is easy, but if you don't plan your strategy, you’ll get nowhere!
▼ It could do with a continue option
▼ You’ve seen one level, you've seen 'em all (well, nearly)
▲ With a tricky control method, ruthless enemies and non-stop action, your gameplaying skills are certainly put to the test here
▲ High speed flying and blasting action is pretty gripping stuff!
▼ With only three visually different scenes, you’ll soon start wishing for some variety
Tough but challenging blaster, which should keep your reactions and trigger finger well exercised!