Review: Combat Helicopter 2 Premium
Ah yes. The one-button game, in this case a helicopter that has to stay in the air and avoid crashing into oncoming cavern walls - it's a very familiar concept. Except that Karmic Apps have made that just the starting point and have built a decent arcade shooting game on top of it, complete with variations in aircraft, enemies, weaponry and scenery. Intriguingly, there's also a whole new way of monetising a mobile game that I hadn't seen before - I'm not sure I'm a fan, but full marks for lateral thinking!
Version Reviewed: 1.1
The '2' bit in the name should give you an idea that Combat Helicopter is now a mature game, with a fully integrated system of in-game credits (of which more later), campaign and survival modes, glossy animated cut scenes and appropriate sound effects throughout.
The five caverns that you'll be flying in are pitched as the level packs, as it were, a system which works well and adds variety just when you think you've got the hang of surviving in the original caves. The original one-touch gameplay is here, with the copter rising and falling according to your left-thumb control, but is supplemented by a fire control on the right. One nice touch is that when the power is applied, the copter's nose dips slightly, as a real world helicopter would do when it was surging forward (ok, ok, the physics here are all wrong, but it's still a nice touch). This then affects your aim while firing your machine guns, so you have to take this into account when flying and aiming. And avoiding the rock outcrops. And mines. In fact, there's a lot going on, considering the game genre's humble beginnings.
Bottom-left on the screen is your health meter - let this stray down to the wire and it's level over, or at least back to the start of the current cavern. As you progress, you rack up points and credits, plus new weapons start getting unlocked, from rockets to sci-fi-like shields. Which, naturally, let you fight harder and stay alive longer, all of which you'll need as more and more enemies appear - mines, gun emplacements, and helicopters of several different types and sizes.
The addition of rockets to your armoury does give your right thumb one more option other than mashing down on the same spot, plus there's variety in the visual destruction as well. Shown below is some aerial action in the ice cavern...
Although not captured in these screenshot mockups, the top rectangle is used inside each level for a diagrammatic mini-map of how far you've progressed within the current cavern. It would have been nice to have had an actual silhouette of the cavern, but the simple line-chart at least lets you know roughly how far you are through.
And, yes, in the 'free' version of Combat Helicopter 2 (available in some markets only), you lose the 'map' and the rectangle is used for showing banner ads - these are somewhat intrusive, but then the 'Pro' version is only 79p here in the UK, so this is not going to break anyone's bank.
Achievements come along regularly, accompanied by more credits and some graphical medals, if you're into that sort of thing:
Where Combat Helicopter 2 and its developers have taken a lateral leap into a different way of monetising their game (whether or not you've grabbed an ad-free 'Pro' version) is in providing various ways of obtaining more credits for use in the game. Traditionally, there would be an in-game purchase, using real money to acquire vast amounts of credits for speeding up progress in the game. I have to say that I hate that way of doing things - why should someone with more money be able to skip hours of hard gameplay - it foils the point of a game on several levels and just feels wrong.
Instead, aided by the folks at tapjoy.com, the developers have integrated a set of real world actions that, when 'completed' (some involve delay and forms being filled out by the appropriate organisations), all generate credits in the game. This might be as simple as visiting a web site (30 credits), liking the game on Facebook (420 credits), right up to signing up for NOW on Sky TV (20,000 credits). There are dozens of offers, and I admire the lateral thinking involved in Tapjoy's approach, though the intersection of a budding Combat Helicopter 2 gamer and someone wanting some of these things in the real world isn't necessarily going to be huge. Still, if one of these offers or activities were something you'd been thinking of doing anyway...
Go on, admit it, you love a good shoot 'em up. And one which can be played with a couple of thumb taps and which has almost no learning curve, yet which offers challenging, split-second-timed gameplay right to the bitter, flaming end, has to be celebrated.
Although there's no ultimately different change in gameplay from start to finish, it's all very well pitched and even the slightly quirky method for gaining extra in-game credits can't stop me recommending Combat Helicopter 2 Pro.
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at