AGH -- Choplifter On The Atari Systems: Which One Is Best?


by Pierre-André

"As a pilot of an helicopter, you must rescue a team of 64 hostages (16 at each time) from behind the lines of a maniacal enemy. Though you'll have to defend yourself, the only points you get are for the hostages you rescue."

First released in 1982, Choplifter is more than an all-time classic. It is among the first computer video games to have been released as an arcade game (by Sega.)

Choplifter is available in different versions on four of the Atari 8-bit systems... Atari 800/XL, 5200, XE and 7800.

Atari 800/XL (purple version)

1982 version published by Broderbund - Program by Dan Gorlin


    - Superb Animation & Very Fast (100% Pure Machine Language).
    - The Chopper answers perfectly to the joystick
    - Various adversaries: Tanks, Fighters, Satellites.
    - The hostages are fantastic (Animation/behavior/Movement)
    - Permanent Danger: Two tanks at a time with a fighter or one fighter with two tanks: yes!!!
    - Only three to four colors are used, the sky (at night!) is filled with an horrible purple color.
    - The sounds are those used by the Apple II version (blip! bip!) and don't weren't converted to take advantage of the superior Pokey sound chip found in the Atari 8-bit computers.
Directly ported from the Apple II, this first version has definitely the best animation of any Choplifter game ever released on the Atari. The animation is so great that it has become a real standard in itself. For a 1982 game, the Chopper is nicely drawn and uses so many frames for its movement that it is a real pleasure to maneuver. On the negative side, the game is a mere port from the Apple II version, which is a disappointment given the Atari's superiority as a game machine. All in all, it displays some flaws but the gameplay doesn't really suffer from them.

Atari 5200 (5200 purple version)

1984 version published by Atari - Programmed by Dan Gorlin

The Atari 5200 SuperSystem, being an Atari 8-bit Computer transformed into a video came console (only the Pokey soundchip seems to be a bit different), this version is identical to the 1982 release with one notable exception. Since the 5200 has two fire buttons compared to only one on the computers, the gameplay has been untainted (two buttons are used -- one for firing and the other for changing directions). As such, the 5200 edition is considered superior by many to the one found on the 800/XL.

XE Computers/XE Game System (color version)

1988 version published by Atari
Programmed by Sculptured Software using some routines created by Dan Gorlin on the 1982 version.


    - The graphics are much more refined than in the previous 8-bit computer versions (From the U.S. base to the camps where the hostages are kept...)
    - The Animation is exactly the same than the one used in the 1982 version, perhaps a bit slower due to the added details.
    - The chopper is better drawn, multi-color, much more detailed.
    - The action is now taking place during the day, the sky is blue instead of the horrible purple color used in the first version.
    - A realistic multi-level scrolling has been added showing clouds moving at different speed when you move.
    - The presentation is totally new: A title screen has been added (showing Choplifter & the two copyrights of Atari & Broderbund), a nice little music is also present (not found in previous Apple or Atari versions). The other sound effects (during the game) haven't been changed.
    - The hostages are -maybe- too small but their behavior is as realist as before.
Best known as the color version, this 1988 adaptation by Sculptured Software is, in its own way, a tour de force. As a matter of fact, this version keeps all the advantages of the 1982 version and eliminates all the flaws while adding only one (which won't even be a flaw to 99% of you, I must have been playing this video game for too long). Thanks to Steve Coleman and all his crew at Sculptured, this new version is as good -- if not better -- than the Broderbund version.

Atari 7800 version

1988 version published by Atari
Programmed by Ibid, inc.


    - Nice graphics, a lot bigger than in the versions mentionned above but you see LESS field than before. (Have you ever played Dark Chambers on the Atari XL/XE or 7800 then you have tried it on the 2600, the problem is exactly the same.)
    - Nice Details: Explosions are spectacular.
    - You can now destroy the fighter at any time, you don't have to wait until his attack position.
    - The Animation uses only two frames when you turn to the right or the left or the upper right... Sounds pathetic, isn't it? It is!
    - You must go high if you want to shoot the tanks, you can't touch them when you fly low...Need we say more?
    - The small piece of music is not really agreable to hear, of course, there is no Pokey Soundchip in this cartridge. Shouldn't every cartridge have been like Ballblazer, Jack?
Sure it is not unplayable but it just doesn't feel like the real Choplifter that we've come to known and love. Excuse me but with the classic Choplifter, my adrenaline is still going at 150MPH when I need to save my hostages treatened by a tank while at the same time I must escape a fighter and a satellite!

Somebody should start thinking about killing these guys at Ibid inc, when they did adapt Mario Bros. on the 7800, it was a real disaster then after when Karateka (still on the 7800) was released, it was not a disaster this time, it was a murder! They killed the game, keeping less than 15% of something common with the original.

Finally, Choplifter plays better on the 8-bit Atari but if somebody could find the "not sure to exist" 2600 prototype version, then we could add another chapter to this saga.


Atari 800/XL version Disk ATDISK-120
Atari 5200 version Cartridge CX-5253
Atari XE version RX-8096
Atari 7800 version CX-7821

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