Hero game screen
  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatAmstrad CPC
ReviewFrank and Christian

Main review

The Atari 2600, although a limited machine in terms of technology, managed to provide some truly excellent games that squeezed every ounce of life out of the machine. Activision were undeniably the kings of this (and no wonder with a large chunk of its development team being a break-away from Atari), and the passion when making games was evident to see. Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation, released in 1984, is one of many titles in it’s software catalogue which blew many people away. The aim was simple, guide “R. Hero” through various caverns filled with flying tentacles, bats, moving walls and various other obstacles to save trapped miners. To do all of this you are equipped with a laser gun, a small supply of dynamite and a jetpack for company. Overall the game was very fluid, featured an awesome control system for its time and a game of great depth for the 2600.

The C64 and Spectrum were both around when the orignal version was released, and thus got their own port but the Amstrad was a little late into the market and, by the time it entered as one of the big three 8-bit computers in the U.K., it wasn’t really viable to do an Amstrad release. Flynn of WinCPC emulator fame recently decided that the Amstrad needed a port of H.E.R.O. and produced one as a result back in 2005; you’ll probably be surprised to learn that unlike the C64 and Spectrum versions that made use of the extra capabilities of their respective platforms, this recent Amstrad version is an almost perfect port of the Atari 2600 original – right down to the graphics, presentation and sound effects. Indeed this is more of a tribute than a long awaited conversion.


Graphically the game is a very accurate port apart from a few obvious colour shading differences where the Amstrad didn’t have a matching colour. Shading therefore is slightly lacking in comparison, but pixel wise everything is pretty much perfect except that the CPC version is missing a few graphical effects such as the rippling effect at the bottom of each screen. Presentation is essentially that of the 2600 version, though with the inclusion of a main title screen – which is okay but features a graphic which seems to have been quickly converted across. I think it would have probably been better to have the demo playing title screen of the original, but its not a major downer on the game itself. With the sound, the game tries very hard to replicate the 2600 audio and does a good job of things. For the H.E.R.O. 2600 enthusiasts, there is a little difference in terms of pitch but, unless you play the 2600 version daily, you won’t really notice any difference.

The game itself plays as it should with the same control system as the 2600, with down on the joystick being used to drop dynamite and fire to shoot off a laser beam. All levels and difficulties are present, with the ability to select at the start where the player starts from. Unfortunately the one big criticism of mine is with the smoothness of play – the 2600 version moves around as smooth as a baby’s bum, but unfortunately the movement on the Amstrad is a little juddery in comparison which takes some of the polish off what is otherwise an accurate conversion. However, the gravity settings are spot on and you should be able to have a pretty faithful game, regardless of the smoothness issues.

Overall Flynn has done a great job with this conversion and has converted as much and as accurately as he could and H.E.R.O. on the Amstrad is meant just to be a straight tribute to the 2600 version with no fancy update or anything added. However it would have been nice to see an option at the start to play the 2600 original or an enhanced version taking advantage of the Amstrad’s superior features, but that really wasn’t the aim of this tribute. In terms of conversion, the game rates highly with its accurate graphics, gameplay and sound only let down slightly by the jerkiness in comparison to the original. In terms of the game itself, H.E.R.O. remains a classic title which, although starting to show signs of age (Well, it is 23 years old!), still provides a short fun challenge and is well worth a good hour of your time.

Second opinion

When I was young, prop-packs were all the rage, everyone wanted one. Well, not really but we all loved John Van Ryzin’s H.E.R.O. for the Atari 2600 and spent afternoons propelling through caves, blowing up walls, shooting snakes with our head-mounted micro lasers and avoiding lanterns and lava walls (huh?) to eventually rescue the lonely miner deep down in the cave system. The 2600 original aged really well, it still looks good and plays fantastic, so it is the obvious choice for a remake. On first glance, the CPC version looks almost identical to the archetype, but after a few seconds, you’ll notice a few subtle differences, but unfortunately they’re not all for the better.

For example, in the original there were three horizontal shafts displayed on each screen. The 2600 displayed each of these shafts in a different shade, adding a bit more depth to the playfield, but this was omitted in the Amstrad conversion. And at the bottom of the screen there used to be a wavy line which was animated in the lowest level and gave the player a pretty ground water effect – and again, that effect didn’t make it into the CPC version. Apart from that, the graphics look like a carbon copy of the original.

The game itself plays quite similar to the original, however; the player is a bit slower than before and the nasties seem to be a bit faster. Taking off from the ground is still a pain, and the design flaws are still intact (nasties appearing one pixel below you after the screen flip, for example), but it just wouldn’t feel right if the author, Flynn, changed details like that. Also, the original cave layout is still the same, and the nasties are in the same spots as before so it scores big bonus points for that! I still managed to reach the last cave on my first try, not because the game is so easy or anything but because I instantly remembered the right way.

All in all, I really like the conversion of H.E.R.O. for the CPC, much more in fact than the official C64 version that was released back in the days (argh, who came up with these horrible high resolution caves?!). Everything feels just right, as it was supposed to be in 1984.