Wednesday 15 April 2015

Chopper Command (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1982

Chopper Command is a side-scrolling shooter that shares many similarities with the 1981 Arcade classic Defender.

You control a military helicopter and your mission is to shoot down the enemy vehicles that are scattered around each level; once you do so you move on to the next level which is tougher and faster. To help there's a handy radar at the bottom of the screen which not only shows you the location of these vehicles but also their vertical position; this allows you to adjust your height prior to combat and it adds a nice strategic element to the game. At the bottom of the playing field are trailer tractors that you have to protect from enemy fire. I don't think you can lose a life if they all blow up but each one seems to count towards your end of level score. You only have three lives and you'll probably lose them all pretty quickly if you go in 'all guns blazing'. I found that the best method is to slowly work your way across the map (using your radar to guide you) and then gradually scroll the screen when you're near an enemy. It also helps to back up occasionally as the enemies generally follow the same pattern and you can line up your shot better. One nice feature is that Activision added a rapid fire mode if you hold down the fire button which saves some arm ache! However, I just couldn't really get into the game and found that it's overly repetitive. In my opinion it really needed some variety such as different vehicles, obstacles you need to work around, rescue missions, etc. It also gets too difficult too quickly and by the 3rd level the enemy fighter pilots swoop in at ridiculous speeds and always seem to kamikaze straight towards you. There is a second difficulty mode but it's just insanely tough to stay alive for very long!

There's definitely some fun to be had with Chopper Command and it's by no means a bad game. Personally it just didn't hold my interest but fans of Defender (1981, Arcades) might get some enjoyment out of it.

Random trivia: Chopper Command was re-released several times including on Xbox 360's Game Room and on the Activision Anthology for the Game Boy Advance.

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