Choplifter! Retro Review (Atari 7800)

Anyone need a lift?



Dan Gorlin’s Choplifter is rather famous for one thing; it was the first ever computer game to actually be converted into an arcade game! Choplifter was originally a title for the vintage Apple II computer back in 1982, but came full circle when the enhanced 1985 Sega arcade version was converted onto the Sega Master System a year later. This later still 1987 Atari 7800 iteration was translated over to the machine by the much criticised Ibid Inc., who managed to pretty much screw up every 7800 game they did – however this was their one (in their terms anyway) success story, as Choplifter on the ProSystem is actually pretty good. A very original and highly acclaimed horizontally scrolling shoot ‘em up, Choplifter has actually appeared on no less than fifteen different systems. Even more recently in 2012, it was updated to the modern era and released on Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows as Choplifter HD.


The idea of Choplifter is pretty simple – there are several groups of hostages trapped in buildings across a warzone. You must fly your chopper across the landscape horizontally, shoot the buildings to release the captives and then land where possible to pick up them up. You must then fly them back to your base for safety. Each building holds sixteen hostages and only sixteen passengers can be carried at a time, so several trips must be made back and forth to complete your mission. However, these buildings are protected by tanks and aircraft who will do their best to stop you completing your mission and will shoot at any hostages you leave behind. For a perfect score you must make sure to collect every single one without any getting killed.

Thankfully your chopper is armed with a machine gun so you can shoot back at the many mechanized malignants seeking to hurt you and the hostages. You must also be careful not to kill any hostages yourself as you blast away at the enemy, as this is easily done! Then once you’ve rescued them all (the ones left alive that is!) it’s onto the next level. One good feature of the gameplay is that as well as being able to fly left and right, you can also face forward and just hover, which allows you shoot straight downwards (very useful) as well as land vertically. I also love the way the little hostages on the ground wave at you and run into your copter when you land. It’s little touches like this that very much set Choplifter apart from the competition when it was first released.


While not the best version of this classic game, I do find this 7800 port to be a rather enjoyable. Looks-wise it’s kind of a halfway house between the original Apple II and later Master System version. The night sky is gone in favour of sunshine but the scenery retains the original’s simplicity. All in all, the graphics are pretty decent and the parallax scrolling, used for the clouds in the sky and markers on the ground, especially impressed me. The sound is pretty weak however, and only consists of a short starting ditty and a bunch of really generic effects, which is no surprise considering the poor sound chip the 7800 was lumbered with. In the gameplay department, Choplifter is onto a winner. The controls are really tight and it’s a lot of fun to play. I must confess though (spoiler alert!) that I was really let down by the lack of a proper ending. Everything said, you can do a lot worse than pick up this fun little title if you own a 7800, even if it’s not the best version of Choplifter out there.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5


Available on: Atari 7800 (Reviewed), Atari 5200, Atari 400/800, Atari XE, Apple II, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Sega Master System, Nintendo Entertainment System, ColecoVision, MSX, Fujitsu FM-7, Arcade; Publisher: Atari Corp. ; Developer: Ibid Inc. ; Players: 1 ; Released: 1987 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A

Kieren Hawken
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