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Video Game / Choplifter!

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Being a hero isn't easy, or everybody would be one.

In an international incident, the militaristic Bungeling Empire has kidnapped the 64 delegates to the United Nations Conference on Peace and Child Rearing. Exploiting an ancient treaty with the United States, you have disguised a helicopter as a sorting machine and smuggled it to a mail distribution center near the border where the hostages are being kept. An opportunity comes when one of the Bungeling's barracks suddenly catches fire, and the hostages run about frantically. As Bungeling planes and tanks approach, you rush to your chopper, seizing this brief opportunity for heroism...

Choplifter! is a side-scrolling action game developed by Dan Gorlin and published by Brøderbund Software in 1982. Initially released for the Apple ][, its popularity soon caused it to get ported to every major home computer and video game system available, as well as an arcade version from Sega.

The game itself is very simple — fly your helicopter across the border, rescue hostages, and return them to the safety of the nearby post office. The wrinkle is that the chopper and the hostages are very fragile; a single hit is enough to shoot down the player, and hostages are quickly killed if they are crushed by tanks, shot by gunfire, or squashed by the chopper's landing skids.

Choplifter! demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Artificial Stupidity: Even for early-eighties programming, the hostages are extremely dumb. They are simply programmed to run toward the chopper regardless of what else is going on, meaning that aside from running right into the middle of an active war zone, they will stand underneath you when you are in the air, and are at risk for being crushed when their own rescuer tries to land to pick them up.
  • Dare to Be Badass: The back of the box ends with the understated quote: "Don't blow it. Being a hero isn't easy, or everybody would be one."
  • Escort Game: One of the first.
  • Glass Cannon: The player's chopper has unlimited ammunition, but will go down from a single Bungeling hit.
  • Hellish Copter: The chopper crashes if it gets shot once, or even grazes the ground.
  • Hostage Situation
  • Hurricane of Puns: The manual mentions special keys called Francis Scott Key, Boris Spasskey and Albuquerkey.
  • No Casualties Run: Enforced; the only way to get the good ending is to save all 64 hostages, losing none.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Word of God is that the game scenario was based on the Iranian Hostage Crisis of The '70s.
  • Shared Universe: After the success of Choplifter!, Brøderbund Software tried to work the Bungeling Empire into its early action games, particularly Lode Runner and Raid On Bungeling Bay.
  • Shoot 'Em Up: Technically, yes, though the game downplays the gunplay and emphasizes careful flying instead.
  • Side View