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|Rating:||3 out of 5|
Originally Choplifter! appeared on both Atari computers and the Apple ][. It's arrival on the 5200 seemed similar to these computer versions. Its fun to refer to Atari and Apple ][ hardware as "computers" considering the original GameBoy probably had more power under the hood! 1982 was a good year for Choplifter! - it appeared on 6 computers/consoles.
As fun and exciting as Choplifter! is, they really didn't maximize the 5200's potential. The graphics are nicely rendered in detail, but lack much of any color. The screens have a pretty monochrome look in comparison to the arcade screen. We tend to think this fits in with the nighttime stealth component of the story.
64 United Nations diplomats are being held behind enemy lines and you are tasked with their rescue. Piloting a smuggled helicopter, you have to pick up the diplomats and bring them back to the rescue mission headquarters which has been hidden in an isolated post office. Your mission begins under the cover of darkness, but you'll still be wailed on by tanks, jets and missiles.
Your chopper only holds a finite number of passengers, so your mission will evolve in stages, forcing you back behind enemy lines. Your enemy is a fanatical group called Bungelings, who are likened to what we call terrorists today (you know... anyone we don't care for = terrorist).
Choplifter! is a single player game using the 5200's top fire buttons to shoot the enemies while using the bottom buttons to alter the helicopter's direction. You have 3 lives and the game ends when you lose those lives or all 64 diplomats are rescued or killed.
As you guide your chopper across enemy terrain, you'll often see hostages waving frantically at you. Descend and pick them up. As they have recently broken free from their captors and are not in a sound mental state, be careful not to land ON them - they'll be squished (aka: killed). You have to land near them and they will board the chopper. You can pick up 16 passengers before having to return to the safety of your headquarters for drop-off. Each return behind enemy lines boosts the threat level.
As mentioned some diplomats have escaped and you'll see them waving you down. Remember, these are hostages that have freed themselves from their captor's baracks. So where the Hell are the rest of 'em? In lock up! Your job is to free & rescue them. This is a commando mission. You're not driving a taxi!
You'll have to be smart and find ways to free the diplomats still in custody. One tactic is to land near a baracks and wait for a tank to fire on you. Very often the tank fire will blow a hole in the baracks, freeing the diplomats locked inside.
Again pointing to their diminished mental acuity from the ordeal, you must land squarely on the landing pad or your dazed diplomats will not get off the chopper. Guided missiled can still hit you when you are on your safe side of the barrier, however, hets and tanks can not.
From left to right, across the top of the screen, you will see 3 segments of your score. You will see the number of diplomats killed, the number currently aboard your chopper and the number of hostages safely rescued.
Many players will complain about the lack of visual diversity and minimal use of sound. For those folks, we like to remind them the mission takes place at night and it's a stealth rescue mission. Hampered vision and silence can be imagined as part of the "reality" factor. Or we can bitch about the underuse of the Atari 5200's prowess. You decide.
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