SimCopter by Maxis is a revolutionary helicopter game that is not only challenging, but very fun!

User Rating: 9.5 | SimCopter PC
Maxis (Will Wright and Electronic Arts) is now well known for their "sims" games that range from simulating virtual life to cities, golf, and most recently (2008) Societies. In the middle of their sophomore releases immediately after "Sim City 2000" and before "The Sims," there was a game that was much more than fun. It was a helicopter simulation, which can only be described as "revolutionary" since it was the very first civilian adaptation of rotor flight. Long before Microsoft incorporated helicopters into "Flight Simulator," and before the "Search and Rescue" series was initiated, Maxis had virtual pilots in the skies flying helicopters for the first time in a non-military purview. This is a "classic" game that is ten years old, but seems fresh every time it is played.

The function of simulation goes beyond most flight games. It actually has a goal, and a means of attaining the goal over time. Your job is to pilot your helicopter within the confines of a city to accomplish a set of randomly-generated missions. The difficulty of the missions will increase as levels are cleared. These missions include transport, medical evacuations, search and rescue, crowd control, high-speed automobile chases, catching fugitives, rescuing stranded boaters, saving people from the rooftops, and many others. Points are awarded for successful rescues, which are the basis for completing a level. They can also be used to purchase upgrades for your helicopter, or even completely new aircraft. Each of the helicopters modeled has different flying characteristics and handles either rather easily or realistically depending on your difficulty setting.

Missions are accomplished by means of extra equipment installed on the helicopter. For relatively easy medical evacuations, all that is required is that the pilot (you) land near the patient, get out of the helicopter, and carry the injured party back to the aircraft for delivery to a nearby hospital. For other missions, such as fire extinguishing, a bucket is dipped from your helicopter into a lake or stream, and then dumped onto the fire. A nozzle can be purchased in a later upgrade for the much easier task of spraying in a specific direction. For boating rescues, a ladder is lowered from your helicopter for the unlucky mariner to climb. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is when the player is able to obtain a more advanced (and larger) helicopter with several passenger seats, before any missions begin you can pick up emergency personal from hospitals or police stations to assist in your rescue/police actions. When a criminal is on the loose, simply let the policemen out of the helicopter near to where they are, and let the cop catch the fugitive while you take the credit.

Graphics are by no means phenomenal. They are somewhat simplistic by today's standards. The helicopters are modeled well, but the buildings, cars and other objects are "blocky" but certainly make for good frame rates. People do appear on a regular basis within the game, but are little more than stick figures. One of the funniest things I have ever seen in a video game comes as a result of this: after successfully completing a level and going back to the home base, your helicopter is greeted by a stick-figure marching band complete with tubas and other instruments overshadowed by a fireworks display.

Sound within the game is wonderful. A lot of time and effort went into it, and the humor initiated in "SimCopter" can still be seen in today's "The Sims" and "The Sims 2" games. Of course the rotor noise is there, but many minor details make the simulation complete. Taxicab horns can be heard when flying over a city; rushing water is noticed when flying over H2O; and gunshots can be seen and heard from fleeing bank robbers. A radio can be tuned in your helicopter to be listened to during your transient flights between rescue missions. The news commentaries, advertisements, and even music are hilarious! "Simlish" had not yet been invented, and so the joke are in listening range for everyone to hear. Yet another humorous element to the game is announcements which can be broadcast from your helicopter to the ground via a loudspeaker. This is used to break up riots and traffic jams. The announcements start simple enough, such as "Please go back to your homes." But, after using the optional speaker for your helicopter a few times, the announcements gets ridiculously funny saying things like, "The mayor sends you greetings and great joy!"

Mayors of "Sim City 2000" are able to import cities they have created into "SimCopter" and are able to fly in their own metropolis! Depending on how large your city is, a great amount of emergencies may start to overwhelm your rescue pilot. This will give you another challenge in prioritizing what missions will award the most points. Also, make sure to keep an eye on your fuel gauge, since you may run out at an inopportune time. Maintenance and hot refueling can be accomplished at your home base.

Haze, fog and other weather conditions are modeled in the game, making for tricky landings in the cityscape in tight area.

This game can be controlled with a joystick or keyboard.

A patch was released soon after the initial release which is commonly known as the "realism patch." Minor bug fixes were included, but are mainly for giving pilots realistic flying qualities of your birds.

This is an extremely fun game for children and adults who are interested in flying, or rescue work in general. The humor is all "G" rated, and the game will run on any computer system that was released after 2001 with no problem. Check your bargain bin, because this is a gem.