There's a huge list of things I've learnt over the years from video games; Italian plumbers rescue princesses rather than worrying about blocked U bends, blue hedgehogs can run really fast and one small spaceship is always enough against a huge battle fleet. During the course of playing Koffi: Yellow Kopter I've discovered something new; helicopters aren't actually manufactured by Boeing or Westland and instead are sort of "born" and then have to grow up before they go into service proper. I know this because Koffi is a young rescue helicopter who, due to his tender years, isn't allowed to go out on dangerous rescue missions with the other copters. Of course this makes perfect sense, after all a young helicopter simply doesn't have the training required... right?
But when Koffi hears that Pyro, an evil stormcloud, has got a major thing about forests and has decided to torch the lot of them he has to act. With all of the other helicopters out on their own missions, only little Koffi is around to hear the call for help and it's up to our little yellow hero to go out there and save the woodland creatures from peril, stop the fires and, more importantly, stop Pyro himself. All in all, that's a fairly big job for a little helicopter but Koffi is a brave lad and has probably watched too many Airwolf re-runs not to go for it.
Koffi obviously isn't armed, but he does have a few tricks up his sleeve. For a start he has a water tank aboard and in order to put the fires out he can collect rainwater or snow and dump it onto the flames. Similarly, Koffi's small size means that he can nip under the canopy and rescue the poor animals trapped there and thus earning himself a bit of a water bonus into the bargain.
Of course, it would be plain sailing if there were nothing else going on; apart from the treetop fires and later on the occasional fireball to worry about, Pyro himself hovers around above the scene of devastation, lobbing out the occasional lightning bolt and generally looking rather mean. Since Pyro will simply restart any fire that Koffi extinguishes, our brave little copter must defeat him into the bargain. This is achieved by head-butting Pyro repeatedly until he takes the hint and dodging the lightning in the process. After a few knocks, Pyro will go mental and shift around a lot faster, making him harder to hit and the lighting similarly harder to dodge.
Koffi handles nicely, his movement speed has been tuned so that it's possible to use a bit of skill to get away from Pyro's attacks or to even be sneaky and nudge him during a strike and then running for cover. There are techniques to be learnt for just about everything from grabbing chains of raindrops to getting past the vine on the appropriately-named Windy Vines stage and each of the three main stages (the fourth being a "boss" stage with Pyro's mother menacing Koffi) has it's own detail and nice touches to give it some life.
Graphically, this game really wants to be cute; Koffi, the helpless little animals are even Pyro are all done with a cartoony style. Everything seems rather dated but I'm assuming this is deliberate and a "homage" to the Atari 5200 games of old (the original Koffi: Yellow Kopter was written for the 5200 and then ported over to the 8-bit series) but it's slightly jarring to compare it with some of the other titles we've had for review or even the classic Atari 8-bit titles; I understand that Koffi is meant to be cute but personally I find Mr. Heli cute in the same way. Similarly, the soundtrack is primitive at best whilst the spot effects are adequate; Atari sound techniques have moved on considerably so again I'm assumimg these are something of a nod to earlier titles but that still leaves everything sounding quite primitive.
But these are just niggles to be honest, they don't take much away from what can be a very addictive little game. After a few practice goes to get into the swing of things, Koffi's simple but effective controls become second nature and sticking it to Pyro and rescuing the animals is enjoyable stuff. The addition of difficulty and level selection options from the titles page, palette adjustments on the later levels to add variety and the constant increase in tension as the well tuned difficulty curve nudges it's way up means that the initial challenge is maintained throughout. All in all, Koffi: Yellow Kopter is an excellent way to kill some time, possibly more time than you were expecting!