Choplifter HD is an updated version of the original Choplifter game that was originally released on the Apple II and was later released on many other systems including the NES and Sega Master System. inXile Entertainment’s new version was released on January 10 for XBLA (1200 points), PSN ($14.99) and PC ($14.99). This new version is definitely a mixed bag, starting off well, but soon becoming too difficult to have any fun with.
The main focus of the game is simple: fly the helicopter around to rescue people, with the occasional level just focused on shooting. There’s a five star rating system which takes into account how many of the people you rescue, how many enemies you kill, and how long it takes you to complete the level. There are also some hidden objectives in the levels which mostly consist of saving a reporter and his cameraman from the dangerous area.
I’ll start off with the good – the game plays well with no control problems to speak of, and flying the helicopter is easy to learn. The game also looks nice, even though some of the environments begin to look the same after a while. One of the things I liked the most about the game was its sense of humor. There’s a few zombie invasions, cameos from Duke Nukem and Meat Boy, and plenty of hilarious dialog between the pilots such as “I read you were involved in a friendly fire incident” “I don’t know why they called it friendly fire, I hated that asshole!” The first 10 or so levels of the game are also tons of fun, with the difficulty being just right enough to present a challenge, but not be overwhelming.
And that brings me to the bad – the sudden difficulty spike that starts in the latter part of the third (out of four) set of missions in the game. The game goes from being fun to punishing and unfair at the drop of a hat. I don’t mind difficulty in games, but I do mind when it’s done suddenly and cheaply. A good example of this is when going to rescue some people and setting the chopper on the ground to pick them up, suddenly tanks, jeeps, snipers, rocket launchers, and everything but the kitchen sink that wasn’t there before you landed show up and start firing at you at once while you can’t fire back because you’re waiting for the passengers to get on. Needless to say, the chopper doesn’t last through more than a few seconds of the bombardment before being destroyed. There’s no checkpoints in the levels, so you’re forced to play through the whole level again, no matter what point you died at, which was an endless source of frustration for me. I also feel that the price of the game is too high at $15, and should have been given a $10 price point
Overall, there is fun to be had in Choplifter HD and though it’s not a BAD game, unfortunately in the later levels the overly punishing difficulty takes it from fun to frustrating all too suddenly. If you want to give it a try, either download the trial first or wait until it goes on sale to see if it’s to your liking.
A copy of Choplifter HD for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review.