The Retro Critic


Originally an Apple II computer game, Choplifter may sound like a lame play on words and look like a typical shooting game upon first glance and yet there’s actually a tad bit more to it than that.

For one thing, the game was on a home system before enjoying some popularity in the arcade and, eventually, on 8 and 16-bit consoles.

Today we’ll be looking at the Sega Master System port.

Again, upon first glance, Choplifter looks like no big deal: a right-to-left shooting game with a helicopter instead of the usual plane and/or spaceship.

After bombing the odd tank and turret, you soon find a building with what looks like an England flag at the top of it.

English Base

More enemies?

Well yes and no.

This is actually where you’ll find a bunch of hostages you’ll need to rescue even though you probably killed most of them when you destroyed that entire base.

You clear the way then try to land (not literally ON the hostages, preferably), they “get to the choppa”…

Little Marios Choplifter

And you bring them back to your base safely.

I personally like to think that these guys are all Mario clones created by a dystopian society run by, I guess, England in an evil bid to… something bad and convoluted.

It’s a patchy plot at best so far but don’t knock it!

There’s potential there.

Back To Base Choplifter

You get points every time a Mario gets home safe and you then need to repeat the process with more Marios further and further away and more bad guys shooting at you from all sides.

Turns out that this is way more strategic and more of a puzzle game than just the mindless shooter it started off as. The challenge here being not so much to shoot down your enemies but juggling keeping all the hostages, of which there are many, alive while not getting shot out of the sky by incoming jets etc.

There’s an actual mission to follow through here and it’s definitely an entertaining ride.

You’re like a hero!

A super…

Get To The Chopper

… Mario?

This port actually has some variety locations-wise even though some of the other versions of the game tend to stick to just one environment. After the whole desert stage you find yourself at sea bombing boats and rescuing their passengers.

Boat Choplifter


I sank your battleship.

It’s exactly the same deal as the first stage, basically, except you’re on water and it smells like fish.

Oh and you can land on the sea itself so tiny swimming Marios can reach you.

Swimming Marios Choplifter

This would be dramatic if it wasn’t so darn adorable.

The game then gets increasingly more sci-fi as your copter finds itself passing through caves, avoiding lava balls flying up at you.

Lava Choplifter

Can’t believe England rigged the Earth itself to attack me.

How rude.

Soon enough, though, it all makes sense as we find out that Dr Robotnik himself was behind this whole operation all along.

Chopper Choplifter

I guess it’s a step up from stealing baby bunny rabbits…

You eventually go back to similar stages where you rescue ridiculous amounts of people, shoving dozens and dozens of them into a single helicopter.

Rescued Choplifter

Further stages include what looks like and what I’m just going to assume is a Moon base when it’s probably just Area 51 or just somewhere not all that special at night.

Moon Base Choplifter

And some mountain level where you bring hostages to the safest place you can think of.

Somewhere no-one would ever think to look into let alone attack.

Somewhere deep, deep undercover.

Barn Marios Choplifter

Or some wooden barn completely out in the open.

That’s fine too.

Ok so I may have turned Choplifter into a much more elaborate story than the programmers (and reprogrammers) probably had in mind but that just goes to show how much fun one can have playing this simple, straight-forward yet still challenging and rather good little game.

The graphics are nothing to go wild about, it doesn’t exactly go all out and offer too many different things but it’s good at what it does and it definitely has its place.

It’s well worth a go, on the Sega Master System and other ports.

Oh, and you modern gamers out there have no excuse.

Choplifter HD

Choplifter HD exists.

And so do you.

You do the math.