Ever had one of those games you've read about, seen screenshots of, and always meant to try out, but never did? For me, this game is one of those:
(aka Battle Chopper)
Arcade version, better known as Battle Chopper. Irem tries its hand at a 'cute-em-up.'
I remember seeing a couple of screenshots of the Amstrad version of this game in a magazine many years ago and thinking it looked really good, but I never had the chance to try it out. So, I've decided to do so now in the form of an 8-bit comparison. I had a crack at the arcade version recently, and although it's nothing special, it's a pleasant enough experience. Wait... Pleasant?
What am I saying? It's actually quite hard and has an annoying tendency to send you back a long way when you die in certain spots (It is an Irem game, after all.) But enough chatter... how do the 8-bit versions compare?
Shoot blocks of stone, to collect crystals, to buy weapons, to shoot enemies ... and blocks of stone.
A die-hard Mr Heli fan (if such a creature exists) would probably get some enjoyment out of this if they had no other alternative. The monochrome graphics are serviceable without being particularly attractive, though I expect the heavy use of dithering would look better on a TV than it does on an LCD monitor. Although the play area is a little small, it isn't too cramped. I would have liked smoother scrolling and movement, but it's still playable, and it does scroll a little more smoothly on the slower vertically scrolling sections. One odd change from the arcade version is that the bomb you lob when walking seems less powerful, with the result being that you have to chuck two or three of them just to blow away a piece of crystal-hiding scenery, but that's just a minor detail. As far as sound goes, the SFX are basic shuffly shooting and explosion sounds, which are at least tastefully chosen and shouldn't cause annoyance. Overall, much like me in the sack, it gets the job done without being particularly impressive.
Being nailed to the ceiling, this guy probably spends most his days humming songs to himself. And clapping.
Go ahead, throw mandarins at me. I love mandarins!
This version has a similar screen layout to the speccy version, but it looks much more attractive. The Amstrad's bright palette is well-suited to this kind of game, and the graphics are nicely drawn. In fact, I'd say this one of the better looking Amstrad games I've seen, and the Mr Heli sprite in particular looks great in all its ten colour glory, so kudos to the Amstrad on that score. Oh, and there's a nifty parallax starfield layer in the background too. This version shares the weaker bomb quirk of the speccy version, and is also much like the speccy version in terms of object movement and scrolling, though perhaps a little faster. When it switches to the first vertically scrolling section the scrolling becomes much smoother, which was a nice surprise. Strangely the next vertically scrolling section (which is push scrolling) isn't as smooth, but oh well. The sound is pretty good too. The SFX aren't too intrusive, and a bouncy version of the arcade tune accompanies the action -- the kind of tune likely to annoy everyone in the room except for the person playing. Overall, a good conversion that won't shame Amstrad owners.
Nice mittens. Did your husband knit them for you?
World's smallest nuke?
This version makes a great first impression with a snazzy attract screen featuring the Mr Heli logo and a bunch of little Mr Helis zooming around. The game itself does a good job of living up to that impression. Although the graphics lack the range of colour and the brightness of the Amstrad version, they're still reasonably colourful and well drawn. Silky smooth movement and a larger play area is a big plus too. This version is significantly harder than the Speccy and Amstrad versions (what is it with c64 versions of shmups being harder than the others?) as the enemies are more aggressive, move faster, and respawn almost immediately. This quick respawning can make it tough to gain headway, but it does recreate the kind of constant challenge the player faces in the arcade version. As for sound, the SFX are frankly annoying, thanks to the constant 'whufwhufwhuf
' of your rotor-blades spinning. Thankfully you can switch to music by pressing up on the joystick and F1 (pressing M would be too easy I guess) and listen to a great up-tempo version of the arcade tune instead. Overall, what we have here is a game that does a good job of bringing home the arcade experience, right down to the at times frustrating difficulty.
Note: The c64 version does have one big difference that I'm not too sure about. The game has three levels (each one divided into 2 sub-levels), and when you complete a level you're given a password and have to restart (as in reload) the game and then choose to start on the next level and input your password which, by the way, is 20 goddamn letters long! Now on the one hand, having a password system is kind of cool, because the game is so tough you'll appreciate the option to resume on a later level, but on the other hand, I don't see why you have to restart and reload. Why couldn't they make it automatically load level 2 once you finish level 1, like any other multi-load game? Odd.
Been redecorating, huh? I like what you've done with the ... vines and crap.
Despite the cumbersomeness of password system (which is even more awkward than the word 'cumbersomeness') I'd still say the c64 version takes the gold, mainly because it feels like the most faithful rendition of the arcade game, particularly thanks to its arcade-like smooth movement. Having said that the arcade version probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, and those looking for a more forgiving experience might get more fun out of the colourful and appealing Amstrad version, which I'd rank as being close on the heels of the c64 version (Amstrad owners, you may now bask in this rare praise). The speccy version comes in last, being the weakest graphically and sonically, though it's still not a bad game, if baddy shooting and crystal collecting is your cup of tea.
Emulators used: Spin0.61, WinAPE 2.0 Alpha12, Vice 1.21.