Yahoo! A game with helicopters in it! You know what that means, don't you - it means that I can make loads of 'helicopter' jokes, saying things like "It's a really big chopper" and then adding heaps of "oo-er"s. Brilliant. And I can make jokes about crap helicopter 'fly-boys' like Ian Botham, Noel Edmunds, Barry Sheene and, of course, Mike '9.8 metres per second squared' Smith (the wonderpilot)! What other things can I do, methinks? (You could get on with the blimmin' review for one. Ed) Oh.
Mr Heli is a coin-op conversion, essentially a left/right/up/down scrolling shoot 'em-up in which you play a massive chopper (oo-er) - except it isn't massive at all, its quite a tiny one, about two by two character squares big. The idea is very simple - you've got to negotiate the cavernous maze-like screens while shooting everything that moves and collecting the 'crystals which serve as dosh. With these you can upgrade your weapons in the 'shops'. What do you mean "Slow down, slow down"? It's all really quite straightforward. I'll start again.
"Negotiate the cavernous maze-like screens." That's obvious enough - there are loads of tunnels, and you have to move your helicopter through them, be it up, down, left or right depending on which way the screen has to be scrolling at the time.
"Shoot everything that moves." Um, I can't really make that any more obvious than it is, but I'll have a bash. Um, fire all your, erm, weapons at anything that, erm, doesn't remain, erm, stationary.
"Collect the crystals which serve as dosh." Right, that could do with a bit of illumination, I suppose. Everywhere you travel in this subterranean labyrinth you'll see little blocks. Sometimes there are a whole load of blocks bunched together, and sometimes there are just two or three - but they're scattered all over the shop, and what you have to do is shoot them. Having been shot, a box will release a large 'crystal' (except in some cases it won't - I'll get to that). These 'crystals' then float downwards and settle on the floor, unless there's no floor, in which case they float of the bottom of the screen and out of reach. Each time you catch a 'crystal' (not hard to do - almost impossible not to, actually) your dosh rating bar (top centre of the screen) is winged up by 100 credits and you begin to have purchasing power.
"You can upgrade your weapons in the shops." Right! You know I said that some of the boxes didn't release a 'dosh crystal' when shot? Well, that's because some of them are in fact 'shops'. Shooting them produces an icon with a picture of a weapon and a price emblazened on it - a bomb with the price 400 for instance. Touch this icon and, presuming you have enough cash, you will be credited with this extra weapon and therefore have the added firepower to progress further, kill more nasties, collect more crystals, buy more weapons and thus progress further. Kill more nasties, collect more crystals, buy more weapons and thus progress further. Kill more... hey, I could turn this into an infinite reading loop. (But you won't. Ed) Erm. Anyway, there's a myriad of nasties to be avoided - some of them drain your energy, some of them just get in the way and some of them actually nick all the lovely weapons you've bought (the blighters). Fight through miles and miles of tunnels and you'll be confronted by the end-of-level nasty. It's big and it's bad and it's almost as indestructible as Captain Scarlet - but eliminate it and it's time to move up a level (of which there are four).
Mr Heli is converted from one of those cutesy, colourful Japanesey coin-ops (you know, where everything - humans, machinery and animals - all look like Marine Boy). And yes, the graphics on the Speccy are cutesy too. But there's one thing that's missing - colour! Now I don't normally whinge about games coming out in monochrome, but I really do feel that this one could have done with some (even a lot of) colour to lend it more atmosphere. The caverns and nasties have too much of a 'squarey' feel to them. Another grumble is the 'difficulty spread'. I found that it was rather easy to get to the end of the levels - but maybe I'm just too skill for my own good.
Anyway, it's not all gripes. Mr Heli is a bloomin' addictive little sausage and it's also very big (big, big, big). Helishly big in fact! Ho ho. Oh drat - I forgot to insert my helicopter 'jokes'. Here's one before I go. What's the difference between a helicopter and Anneka Rice's bottom? (I don't really think they want to know. Ed)
Very playable four way scrolling shoot-'em-up and buy-extra-weapons-as-you-go type game with a cutesy Japanese feel. Shame about the lack of colour though!