It was way back in 1984 when the bet of a young and unknown American programmer who answered the name of John Van Ryzin was presented to the world: H.E.R.O.
A title that thanks to the extraordinary success that it was preparing to collect, from there to a short time it would have entered the Olympus of the cult games, the umpteenth legend and sales record signed Activision!
Said among us I have always loved the games of this software house, if only for its splendid logo that still exerts a perverse charm on me but H.E.R.O. or Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation deserves a particular speech. In fact, in my opinion it is one of the games that I still consider unmissable among the many born by the famous US software house.
The plot of the game is very simple: Rescue several miners trapped in the depths of dark underground caves. To complete our mission we have a special means of transport which consists of a mini propeller with a portable propeller that allows us to fly and move quickly and with extreme precision. To overcome the numerous obstacles and dangers of the mission, we then have a laser beam in the protective helmet, and a bag of sticks of dynamite, useful for breaking down the countless walls and barriers that block our way. In addition to offering shelter to various hostile animals such as spiders, bats or snakes, some of these can be infested with poisonous mushrooms: in that case, even the mere contact could kill us instantly!
Each mission corresponds to a level, and of course for each new level the difficulty increases by introducing the presence of always new obstacles: pitfalls, fatal traps and any other kind of hidden pitfalls, such as false signals that direct you to wrong paths in the best of cases if not towards certain death, or the lanterns that breaking on contact leave them in the dark, or huge underground rivers that leave no escape in case of fall between their poisonous waters. As if all this was not enough, to make our task even more heart-pounding there is also the inexorable constant consumption of the energy autonomy of the pod-propeller which limits the mission itself over time!
But let’s talk for a moment about the game itself: the graphics of H.E.R.O. it is certainly not spectacular but after careful observation you learn to appreciate it deeply. It is so particular and essential to seem almost made with a brush and a color palette. And perhaps the continuous explosion of always different colors and shades, but always in a perfect chromatic balance, to make the miserable palette of the game so fascinating.
As far as sound effects are concerned, there is not much to say: they are well made and artfully stitched on the game. In any case, the real strength of H.E.R.O is undoubtedly the playability. The levels, which are always different, are artfully designed to force the player to try his hand at a mixture of logic, dexterity and tactical conduct in having to overcome small mazes, infested with obstacles and traps, in the shortest possible time for consuming the energy available.
If on the one hand the extreme simplicity of H.E.R.O. enhances the genius of the idea and its oiled and exemplary development, on the other it amplifies the poverty of resources and means employed revealing many limits, such as the absence of a High Score, or a background soundtrack. Even the winning weapon of playability must pay a tribute to the impeccable essentiality by recognizing the lack of choice of an initial difficulty level.