Updated: Chopper 2 Review

When it came out, Chopper 2 had a ton of great features based around video-output from an iPad and using the iPhone as a Bluetooth controller, but it also cut off earlier-generation devices that lacked Bluetooth from joining the fun. The latest update to this side-scrolling helicopter gem adds Wi-Fi compatibility and some other features that broaden the range of users who can use these features.

In our testing, we found there to be little difference between controlling the game over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Also, iPhone 4 users can now output HD video to a TV. Just like on the iPad, you can pair up another iPhone or iPod Touch as a controller.

Some enhancements to the controls include manual tilt calibration, tilt sensitivity, control positioning, and a virtual analog stick option for controllers. You can now sync progress between devices through OpenFeint, which is great. There are also a lot of optimizations, simplifications, and bug fixes.

Now that they’ve broadened the scope of their supported hardware, Chopper 2 is an even more appealing package. Hopefully other developers will pick up on these innovations, in particular cross-platform progress syncing.

We’ve seen a lot of innovative uses of the iPad and iPhone across all app genres. However, few of these have left us in awe like David Frampton’s Chopper 2. Besides being an incredibly well-produced game, the ability to use the iPhone as a controller for the iPad and connect the iPad to a TV with high-definition video output is outstanding. We may be looking at the future of gaming on iOS devices here, folks.

Chopper 2′s gameplay is fairly similar to the first, where you fly through side-scrolling levels, shooting up enemies below and saving civilians. Your arsenal of weapons includes bombs and missiles, of which you can carry eight of at a time, and a turret, which has unlimited ammo but can overheat if used too much. You’ll also be dodging various homing missiles, rockets, and gunfire from enemies, as well as fighting enemy choppers.

Turning Desert Storm into a trilogy.

Throughout the course of the game, there are 36 missions in 12 different environments, ranging from snow-covered mountains to city rooftops and barren deserts. The story, which is about you working as a chopper pilot for the Army, is pretty generic, but it allows for some interesting missions. Some of these include escorting convoys and transporting bomb technicians to deactivate explosives.

One issue with the level structure is that even on the lowest difficulty, the game is very unforgiving. Getting hit by a single missile will blow out almost all of your health, and hitting a building usually means instant death. While this is certainly realistic, we often found ourselves frustrated after failing a mission right before it ended or before arriving at a repair base for a health boost. Once you become accustomed to the gameplay, things start to become easier, but you’ll need to pull through some brutal deaths before you’ll make it to this point.

When playing Chopper 2 on a single device, you have the choice of touch or tilt controls. Tilt allows you to turn the device to move the chopper, while touch has an onscreen joystick. The problem with touch is that your finger will often obstruct your view of enemies, so we preferred tilt. To fire the turret, you can put your finger anywhere on the screen and drag to aim.

I’m still only in Saigon.

However, if you have both an iPhone and an iPad, you are in for quite a treat. By connecting the two devices over Bluetooth, you can use your iPhone to control the game on your iPad. Since everything is tilt-based except for the missile, bomb, and turret buttons, you’ll quickly become accustomed to the lack of tactile controls. To our surprise, the Bluetooth connection keeps up very well, and controlling the chopper feels very smooth. Plus, since the app is universal, one purchase gives you access to the game on both devices.

But the options don’t end there. If you have an Apple VGA dongle for iOS devices, you can output your iPad’s video to a TV screen. This makes for the most portable console experience we’ve ever seen. The only issue is that you’ll need to unplug the dongle between levels in order to choose the next one, but this inconvenience (which we understand is a problem on Apple’s side) didn’t turn us away from using this feature.

Santa’s operation must go down.

Graphically, Chopper 2 is good enough to get by, but the engine is optimized to squeeze the most out of every device it’s played on. Besides playing in native resolution on the iPad, iPhone 4 users will also get Retina-optimized graphics and the extra precision offered by the gyroscope.

There are some other nice touches in Chopper 2 as well. For one, it has a 17-minute long original soundtrack that features soothing pulses and a drum roll that we could best describe as the calm before the storm. There is also OpenFeint integration and three difficulty levels, the more difficult of which which are extremely challenging but also rewarding. One thing we’d like to see in the future is the ability to sync your progress between multiple devices.

If you own a single device, Chopper 2 is most certainly worth a look. It’s obvious a lot of time and effort went into developing the single-device experience. However, anybody who owns both an iPhone and an iPad must try this innovative game. Chopper 2 offers an experience that you aren’t going to find elsewhere on the App Store.

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