Tired of playing Windows Solitaire? If you want a similarly light and vaguely amusing game with which to while away a few spare minutes, then R/C Helicopter Indoor Flight Simulation might be the game for you. Like 2000's Airfix Dogfighter, R/C Helicopter lets you do what you couldn't get away with as a kid: fly motorized scale aircraft through the house. Created by Japanese developer Aqua System, R/C Helicopter is, in a way, a decent example of how to create a budget game. Very few budget games can compete with the big boys in the prestigious shooter or racing genres, for instance. R/C Helicopter instead sticks to a very simple but unusual concept. Unfortunately, the game is so simple and so dogged by design problems that it's hard to recommend to serious gamers. Casual gamers might find it mildly entertaining for a little while, though.
In R/C Helicopter, you'll control 1:48-scale helicopters such as the McDonnell Douglas MD520N, Italian Augusta A-109 K2, the Japanese Air Force's Kawasaki OH-1, the US military's AH-64 Apache, and others. You'll get to unlock more helicopters as you progress through the game. Each one has noticeably different flight characteristics, so the array of helicopters isn't just for show.
You can control the helicopters with either your keyboard or a joystick. It requires a lot of coordination to manage a helicopter's unusual mode of flying in real life, and the same is true in this game. Unfortunately, you can't alter the low sensitivity of the keyboard controls or the high sensitivity of the joystick controls. Whichever you choose, you're bound for some frustrating flying.
R/C Helicopter offers just two simple modes of play: challenge and adventure. Challenge lets you unlock successively tougher levels with four trials each, and you can complete the trials in any order. The tasks begin with simple maneuvers, like landing on a small raised platform in the middle of a large empty loft. As you progress, you'll need to circle around poles, dodge or destroy balloons, shoot targets with the Apache helicopter, land on moving platforms located perilously close to the ceiling, and so forth. You'll need to beat a fixed score to pass each challenge, with the score based on time taken and the accuracy and smoothness of your landing. These challenges are just barely interesting enough to keep you occupied for a while. They're certainly no great test of your intellect or reflexes. As long as you have a very steady hand and lots of patience, you'll do fine.
But some of these challenges can be frustrating, not just because of the game's poor controls, but also because of the poorly implemented camera system that lags behind the chopper and gets blocked by the scenery. Get ready to rip the rotors off your helicopter more than once as you bash into walls or the ceiling. R/C Helicopter would have made a great children's game because of its simple goals and lack of violence--if only the controls and camera weren't so trying.
Along with the challenge mode, you get adventure mode, in which you fly through a house filled with chairs, bookcases, desks, stereos, and the like. Your goal is to collect stars hidden about the rooms, searching them out in drawers and cabinets or under furniture. You'll literally unlock new rooms as you collect all the stars in a room, with doors now granting access to previously closed sections of the house. Like challenge mode, adventure mode offers very little in the way of sophistication or diversity, and the camera and control problems become even greater hindrances than in the challenge mode because of the many cramped areas you'll need to navigate.
Visually, R/C Helicopter will remind you of early 3D tech demos or student computer art projects: pleasant but nothing memorable or close to cutting edge. You do get some mirrored textures, like polished wood floors, but for the most part, the textures and objects all look fairly simple, if not simplistic. What most hurts the visuals is the monotonously bright and unrealistic lighting. At least the helicopters themselves are fairly well modeled and animated, which helps offset the general blandness of the other graphics.
The game's sound matches the visuals: It's competent enough to get the job done. The sound effects are fairly convincing but extremely basic--you'll mainly hear just the helicopter engines. The soundtrack largely sticks with disposable electronic dance pop.
The lack of audiovisual richness and imagination is indicative of R/C Helicopter as a whole. The game's design is simplicity itself, though that's not necessarily a bad thing as long as you know what you're getting. R/C Helicopter is more an amusement than a true game. It's something to goof around with when you have 10 minutes to kill, but if you want any more than that, you should look elsewhere.