Two sides with identical capabilities vie to destroy each other's headquarters by escorting a demolition team to the opposite end of the battlefield. In addition to dispatching these teams and other ground units, players directly pilot a heavily-armed helicopter.
Tropes found in Rescue Raiders:
- Enemy-Detecting Radar: Displays everything on the entire length of the battlefield.
- Idiosyncratic Wipes: The intro uses a wipe suggestive of helicopter blades.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: The game's Excuse Plot—omitted from the remake—has terrorists going back in time to aid Hitler, while your forces use another time machine to track and stop them.
- My Rules Are Not Your Rules: You lose if you run out of copters. The AI player has unlimited copters.
- Scoring Points: The point system is loosely based on morality, penalizing protracted and costly battles.
- Shows Damage: Your copter emits smoke until repaired.
- Vulnerable Convoy: Tanks are powerful, but are as powerless against a bomb-dropping helicopter as the demolition vans they protect.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": It's actually ZIPPY. Among other things, it enables the player to get extra and invulnerable helicopters and instantaneously move the helicopter to wherever the player wants on the battlefield.
Tropes specific to Armor Alley:
- Captain Obvious: One of the "Battle Hints" is "Low fuel means low fuel."
- The Computer Is a Lying Bastard: Another Battle Hint is "Never believe everything you read."
- Motion Parallax: The scenic background is layered by parallax scrolling, although it's an optional feature that can be disabled if found distracting. You can also disable the scenic background altogether.
- War Is Hell: The snippets of story in the game and the manual have this theme.I don't recognize any of the guys I'm with here, and I don't know if it's because they're green troops and all my friends are dead, or because I'm losing my mind.