We've come a long way from the likes of Desert Strike and Commanche, and the once-mighty helicopter has been relegated to occasionally appearing as a boss in third person shooters.
It's a sad state of affairs to be sure, but Chopper 2 aptly demonstrates that whirlybirds are still just as potent as they ever were.
Controlling a helicopter is a ridiculously difficult undertaking in real life, so luckily responsive gyroscopic control makes it an absolute breeze on the iPhone. Tilting the handset causes the chopper to rotate, accelerate and change altitude, providing precise manipulation after a small initial learning curve.
Swiping a finger across the screen aims and fires a powerful mounted machine gun, and an array of explosive ordnance can be brought to bear with a simple push of an icon.
Over the course of 36 stages, players will use their hovering death machine to rescue civilians and annihilate enemy forces. It's a simple concept that's been perfectly implemented on a handset, but Chopper 2 excels far beyond the immediate thrills of the explosive gunplay.
You might expect a game based around helicopter combat to be brash and vulgar; providing more blood, guts and unintelligible Arnold Schwarzenegger-like quotes than most players could handle.
However, Chopper 2 takes the opposite tack by creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere despite the violent source material. The 2.5D graphics look great even on older devices (such as the iPod touch), displaying an understated canvas for the action.
The music is similarly subtle, featuring a surprising emphasis on haunting piano interludes over thrashing guitars. The juxtaposition of high action with a relaxing ambiance lends Chopper 2 a distinctly unique vibe. It seductively purrs and coaxes rather than screaming at the top of its lungs.
The art direction is also outstanding. Mission briefings take the form of stylish level flythroughs with objectives hovering in midair. Flocks of birds replace incoming fire in the earlier levels, with rainbows and detailed weather effects fleshing out the battlefield.
Each background boasts genuine visual depth that goes beyond the simple third dimension (or half a dimension, I suppose), which elevates Chopper 2 above the vast majority of its peers.
Chopper 2 also has a nifty unique selling point. It's a universal app that can be played in HD on an iPhone 4 or iPad, or standard definition on older generation tech. This is noteworthy in itself, but an iPhone can be also used as a remote control for the iPad version.
Yes, this functionality may sound like a pointless gimmick at first... until you realise that its big brother can output to your television via an HDMI cable. Controlling the big-screen action from your comfortable sofa will do wonders for your eyesight and spine – as well as impressing your friends to boot.
- Slick flight and combat controls
- Deep, tranquil art direction and sound design
- Clever remote functionality
- Small yet appreciable learning curve
- No autosave after individual stages
- Might not be visceral enough for bloodthirsty gamers
Summary: Chopper 2 is a stand-out app that succeeds at being genuinely charming as well as brutally hectic. The renaissance man's shooter of choice.
Developer: Majic Jungle Software
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Price: £0.59 @ App Store