Is this high definition spiritual successor to the original Choplifter a needed update or an affront to the original? Read our full review to find out.
I’ll have to admit that I’ve never played the original Choplifter. In fact I’d not even heard of the remake until it ended up in my inbox. So perhaps I’m the perfect person to review the game as I have no added nostalgia and nothing tying the game to me in the first place. Happily though I can report that the HD update, while a little pricey, is a fun game that will kill more then a few evenings in style.
The premise of the game is extremely simple, as are some of the greatest gaming experiences in existence. You play as a helicopter pilot who is tasked with rescuing prisoners of war and annoying reporters from several different situations. The game takes place on a horizontal plane and you either go left to right or right to left and pick up passengers. Some of the passengers will have timers so you’ll need to reach them quickly which changes the way you might approach a level. With such a simple set up I expected the game to get very boring, very quickly. For the first couple of levels it seemed like I would be right, but slowly the game adds layers of challenge and complexity to the game without hurting the simplicity at the same time. That’s a challenge that several high budge triple A titles don’t get right sometimes.
Of course it wouldn’t be a game if there wasn’t some sort of opposition. Beginning as just ground soldiers with machine guns, slowly more difficult and varied enemies are added. Near the end you’ll be white knuckled dodging fire from anti air guns, blowing up jeeps, and having to clear out fuel depots before you can land and refuel. In later levels your meters will be screaming at you that you’re running out of fuel, while you scramble to clear a landing. Your machine gun runs on a heat meter and overheating will cause you to have to wait until it cools down.
I feel that, especially earlier choppers, the amount of time you can fire your gun is too brief and a little tweaking could have been done. In addition you can switch your aiming from on the 2D plane your on to the foreground. I felt this was really not needed and felt jarring as well as a little difficult to master. Early on you can really never aim at the foreground, but especially in the later levels it’s all but required you get used to it.
Different sets of levels in your campaign are focused around a certain chopper. Unlocking new choppers as you make your way through the game is a nice incentive and adds replay value as once you complete a campaign you can go back to it and play as any unlocked chopper. Some of your helicopters are faster or have a higher load capacity and can change the way you play levels. Maybe a level that you could only get three stars on the first time through you can go back through and get the full 5 stars simply because you can carry more troops. It’s good that replayability is added because as it is the only true glaring fault I see with the game is the amount of content versus the cost. Each level won’t run you over five minutes and the full game can be beat in a handful of hours. If your not one to replay levels to get the best score the game may leave you wanting more.
Despite not knowing anything about this game going in, and expecting little, I found I greatly enjoyed my time with Choplifter HD. The developer, inXile Entertainment, managed to craft a challenging, yet simple game and make it addictive while adding a nice level of replay for those who enjoy upping their scores. Fun cameos from the gaming world also appear though I won’t ruin who or when and your co-pilot has some pretty funny one liners. There are even zombies in the game! I greatly enjoyed the change of pace on these levels.
The overall problem though, and the reason I have to knock off points, is the high entree fee associated with Choplifter HD. Currently the cost of this game is 1200 Microsoft points or in non redundant real world money: $15 dollars. Really with the content available and the simplicity of the game, however fun, doesn’t fully justify $15. To be fair this isn’t something exclusive to inXile Entertainment, it’s becoming a problem with a lot of developers as development costs increase or ambitions of profits increase. The price for games on XBLA have raised more and more over the years and this game is no exception.
For a game with 8 hours or so of content that’s a blockbuster, such as Shadow Complex or similar games, I have no qualms paying it. However, some games just shouldn’t hit the 1200 mark and I really don’t feel like it’s a question of quality. Consumers have to start taking developers to task and it’s issues like this reviewers need to begin to take into account.
I think if this was 500 or even 800 Microsoft points I could even more heartily recommend it. As of now all I can say is if you enjoy the sound of the above premise and enjoy trying to up your score, download the trial version and see if it’s worth the dough. Personally I had great fun with the game but at $15 dollars I just can’t recommend it for everyone.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes.