Not many will argue that there are more games released each year than any one person can possibly play. What that means is that so many games go unrecognized by the majority of players. While you may remember the classic Apple II version of Choplifter, most people will draw a blank stare at the mention of the name. Konami has decided to revive this classic and give it a nice Unreal Engine makeover, offering up an addictive little download title. It’s excellent in short bursts and, of course, there are zombies.
The premise here is simple: fly from point A to point B and gather survivors while mowing down enemies with your weaponry. You have limited fuel that can be resupplied at the level start or checkpoints, and you can rotate your chopper towards the screen or back around using the bumpers. The left analog stick handles all movement while the face buttons activate a small boost to avoid incoming fire. You aim with the right stick and fire with the triggers. It’s simplicity at its finest, and necessary for the twitch style of game play.
Much like Super Meat Boy and my personal favorite, Trials HD, Choplifter HD embraces the idea of high score hunting and repeating levels. Each stage lasts a matter of minutes and encourages you to return with the promise of climbing the leaderboard and earning stars. The stars are used to unlock new levels, but to be fair; you can simply do ’OK’ at each level and still get by. You unlock new choppers as you progress, each one providing more capacity for survivors and greater firepower to mow down enemies. The progression system is great, and you’ll need to take full advantage of it in the later levels.
Once you get past the initial run-of-the-mill missions, things amp up. Enemies bring the pain with sniper bullets that stun your chopper and homing missiles to impede your progress. Earning new choppers by getting more stars on earlier missions is almost a necessity; that is, unless, your skills and patience can overcome the increasingly difficult levels. There are also some nice little touches like the aforementioned zombie apocalypse that crops up from time to time to some cameo appearances by favorite gaming characters including Meat Boy and even Duke Nukem.
There is more than enough content to keep you busy for a while, and of course, coming back to perfect levels will extend your playtime. That is really the draw of the game, so if you are not a fan of that particular style, you might want to steer clear. There is no online to speak of outside of leaderboards and no local play either. This is a straight-up, single-player affair with some possible DLC coming in the future.
Visually, the game looks great utilizing the Unreal Engine. Each level has a unique look and feel, while explosions and physics are definitely the highlights. Frame rates can take a hit from time to time, but it is barely noticeable. The sound is equally good, with some clever dialogue from the pilots and genuinely funny moments scattered throughout. The music is standard fare, but the effects are impactful, especially the explosions. The game does a decent job all around on the presentation front.
Choplifter HD is not as addictive as the games I have compared it to, but it definitely walks that same line of action. If you enjoy small spurts of game time, with incentive to play levels over and over, this is a must buy. The price tag may be a bit steep for some, but it definitely warrants it if this is your thing. The game is polished, humorous and, most importantly, fun. With January being a relatively slow month for releases, I recommend giving this downloadable gem a try. It definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.