Choplifter! was a game originally for the Apple ][ series of computers. In the game, you took the role of an American helicopter pilot trying to save sixty-four hostages held in barracks behind enemy lines.

The Setting
You started off on a safe heli-pad at the very right edge of the playing field. The game screen scrolled left or right as you flew. The static moon and stars hung in the night skymountains would glide by in the background as you flew. The screen did not scroll up or down at all (unless of course you messed with the Vert. knob).

Next to the heli-pad was a base reminiscent of small town schoolhouse. (It was to this building that the little hostages would run to after you dropped them off.) On the flag pole next to it a small pixelly flag fluttered in the binary wind.

Your chopper could fly and land in one of three positions:

  • facing left
  • facing front (that is, as if the chopper was facing you; the kid looking at the monitor)
  • facing right

When your chopper was facing left or right you could fire a machine gun — useful for shooting the jets that would patrol the sky firing missles at you. When facing front, machine guns were replaced by the ability to drop small bombs. You would drop these bombs to destroy tanks that threatened your chopper and/or any of the hostages.

The hostages were corralled in a handful of barracks scattered across the 2D landscape. As they were hostages, they weren't allowed to just run through the hills dressed in curtains with Maria; they were locked in the barracks. To get to the hostages, you had to drop a bomb on the barracks or land next to them and shoot them once with the machine gun.

Once the owners of the barracks weren't getting their security deposit back, the hostages would see you and start running for the chopper. As they climbed aboard, each one would say (in a tinny Apple ][ speaker voice):

"Thank you!"
— that was kind of a cool feature.

You could carry up to twelve passengers (I think that was the number, maybe eight). After the chopper was full, you would head back over the border to drop off the freed hostages. Once you landed, they would hop out of the plane and head for the safety of the building — before getting there, many (or perhaps all) would stop for a moment and wave to you — another cool feature. Meanwhile, back at the Boar's Nest, any of those hostages that hadn't been able to fit in your chopper would try to keep safe until you returned.

Hostages were in a tough situation though. Not only could they be killed by your errant bombs or bullets, they were also fodder for the tanks on the ground — who would fire at you when you were taking on passengers. They could also die in transit; if their pilot (that would be you) was shot down or was flying too low (trying to avoid jets) and clipped the ground. (Hint: try not to fly lower than the actual elevation of the ground.) In addition, if you weren't the best pilot when it came to landing (ahem), or if you "hopped" your plane over a couple of inches to avoid tanks while trying to pick up hostages — well, there's no nice way to put this — you could easily squish hostages.

"Aggh!" (again, in that tinny voice)

You started the game with three choppers (lives). If, over the course of the game, a certain number of hostages (maybe twelve?) died, the game would end — regardless of how many choppers you had left.

If you happened to rescue all of the hostages that weren't killed, you would go to level two. Level two was mostly the same, but tougher. There was a level three as well which if you passed took you to VisiCalc™ — no, just kidding. I'm not sure where successful completion of level three would take you, I always had to go do those damn dishes. It's possible that maybe the game was "won" after three levels. Although never having gotten there I suppose I could say it's possible that completion of level three would result in the world ceasing to recognize the letter "k" — I just don't know.


  • Like Lode Runner, another Broderbund game, Choplifter was also later turned into a coin-operated arcade game.
  • Choplifter shared many similarities with a later Apple game called Rescue Raiders.
  • There's a freeware game for Mac OS X called Chopper that's like if Choplifter had a cousin with snazzier graphics. You can grab it at (7.5Mb).

written by Dan Gorlin
Brøderbund Software
1938 Fourth St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
On 5.25" diskette
Requires 48K

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