Well, I can’t say I ever expected to write this, but flying in from out of the blue comes Chopper Command on the Commodore 64! If your years aren’t as advanced as mine then you might not have heard of Chopper Command; if, on the other hand, you graced the majority of the Seventies with your presence, then you’ll know it was one of Activision’s classic releases for the Atari 2600.
I must admit, I played the game to death back in the day. Then again, I played pretty much every game I had to death back then. When you’re spending thirty-five quid on a cartridge at the age of ten, you tend to make sure you wring every last drop of enjoyment from it.
Chopper Command, then, is a shoot ‘em up… a very basic shoot ‘em up, at that. The game is split into waves, with each wave containing a total of twelve enemies comprising jet planes and helicopters. They’re split into threes, and they buzz back and forth over convoys of trucks, also made up of threes. Your job is to defend the convoys by destroying the enemies. Simple.
These enemy fighters release bombs as they whizz about the place. The bombs hover dangerously for a while before splitting into two, with one projectile shooting up and the other falling as a bomb towards the trucks on the ground. Your best bet is to take them all out as quickly as possible, before their bombs have the chance to do maximum damage.
The first few waves are pretty easy to negotiate, with enemy fighters moving quite slowly and being simple enough to take out. After a while though, they whizz around like angry wasps and should be treated with as much disdain. You soon learn that if you don’t take one out quickly, you need to retreat or you’ll be killed.
It’s a very, very simple game, as were most on the Atari due to the size limitations of the cartridge. That said, it’s still fun and challenging as an arcade-style game, and well worth a blast if you have a spare half an hour or so. It’s a good little high score chaser, and you do get better as you play more and learn how the enemies behave.
As conversions go, it’s really good. I would say it’s very faithful, but for the fact Steven Day has provided improved sprite graphics. Aside from that, it looks incredibly authentic. In fact, it could easily stand alongside the likes of Pitfall II, River Raid, H.E.R.O. and Beamrider in that range of early Activision conversions. I presume they chose not to port it as the gameplay was too simplistic for a full-price release. Now, though, for free, it’s a more than worthy addition to the catalogue.