January 16, 2012

Review – Choplifter HD

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:06 am

Review Choplifter HD
Given the number of vintage games that return year after year, I suppose Choplifter was overdue for a revisit in an era that loves adding HD to the end of game titles. The last time I laid eyes on that particular classic, the visuals crackled through a Commodore monitor and writing videogames as two separate words wasn’t yet something I considered a crime. My eyes were also crusted and red from spending hours flying to one end of the screen to pickup hostages and then flying back to the other end to drop them off – rinsing and repeating in an obsessive way that seemed normal during my childhood.

InXile Entertainment’s HD revival doesn’t detour from this core formula that made the most of technical limitations, offering a sidescroller that asks you to travel from one end of the screen and back again, again, and again. Despite what I consider a premium price point for the privilege, Choplifter HD is also a game of cheap and immediate thrills that doesn’t beg for more than a minimal time commitment, satisfied with whatever little bit of time you have to spare here and there. But aside from the explosions and burst play style, it’s not so easily written off either.

Plus, trying to squish people hoping to be saved is still a guilty bit of fun.

Review Choplifter HD
Choplifter HD’s mission structure digs for variations on the core theme of back and forth gameplay that is easy to fall into, but hard to spend anything more than ten minutes at a time with. Rescuing hostages or trapped civilians is a key activity, but so is escorting soldiers, evacuating people by crossing a warzone, hitting key military targets, and yes, even rescuing people from the zombie horde when the game takes that last inevitable move toward throwing in everything plus the kitchen sink – and a Duke Nukem cameo to boot.

Saving people, defeating enemies, and doing these things within the allotted amount of time rewards players with stars after each stage, unlocking alternative helicopters for stages – there was at least one instance where unlocking a different ride was the only way I was making it through the midway point of this game.

As light and fluffy as that sounds, there’s a level of strategy that creeps into the mix. Resource management becomes the major focus of play, with players burdened by a need to monitor the damage level of their helicopter, their fuel supply, and a machinegun that loves to overheat when your trigger finger gets too heavy – this is complimented by a limited number of missiles as well.

Fueling stations are often scattered throughout longer areas, but repairs and missiles can only be gained by returning to the original launch point. While on the one hand this means that it’s easy to stay alive by simply retreating back to base for repairs and fuel, that pace proves continually aggravating and forces a different approach that favors crawling ahead through stages, attempting to take out soldiers firing bullets and deadly RPGS in addition to AA guns and all manner of light and heavily armored vehicular opposition.

Review Choplifter HD
Adding some unique difficulty is the fact that there are two positions of attack. As players fly across the screen, they point an analog stick in the direction they wish to fire and to gain missile lock, either weapon activated with a tap of the shoulder button. But the helicopter can also pivot, and will need to in order to face the screen to attack enemy positions on a secondary plane. This means that players need to get quick at switching angles in order to face and deal with enemies on both planes, making it deadly to blaze ahead versus the cautious crawling approach, poking ahead to spot enemy positions only to back off again to dodge a wave of missiles and gunfire that could quickly send players packing back to base.

But one can’t ignore the ridiculous dare that exists, particularly aided by a bust ability that will add speed at the expense of more fuel, allowing players to attempt suicidal runs through fortified areas. There are plenty of times where I was able to survive when my patience demanded a faster pace of play – though just as many times where that approach saw me crash and burn.

Somewhere in this mix I keep walking away from something disposable only to return to a game that really is quite clever in making the most of a limiting play focus. There’s certainly more than the cheap exploitation of the Choplifter title I expected, but also plenty of enjoyment to be had in that very idea. It’s fun to blaze a trail of destruction through the game, at least for a few minutes before falling back into the frustration of methodical play necessary for success.

The dry hidden objectives, thirty missions, and helicopter variations invite modest replay but really leave me hanging on the $15 price point, which is unfortunate given that there really is enough here to merit some light distraction. I just can’t shake the feeling that compared to other titles in the same price range, and others selling for even less, you’ll feel a pinch of buyer’s remorse before too long.

inXile Entertainment

inXile Entertainment, Konami

PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), PC, Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade) (Xbox LIVE Arcade Reviewed)


Release Date
January 11, 2012

$14.99, 1200 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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