If you’ve ever messed around with a remote-controlled helicopter, you know that it’s no walk in the park. The tiny remote is far too simplistic for the aerial control required to coast your copter effectively. So when an indie-developed RC-copter simulation game came across my desk, it brought back memories of my Christmas morning frustration and breaking that fancy new helicopter on the floor after its first flight. Add that to the simplistic-looking screenshots from Helidroid 3: 3D, and you’ll see why I came into this review with my own prejudices. I assumed this game was going to be glitchy, repetitive and ultimately unentertaining. But boy, was I wrong!
While the game’s controls are pretty simple, unlike the real-life RC version, they are more than enough to effectively control the helicopter. At default, you steer by tilting the screen in all directions, gyro-style. You adjust the height of the copter with a slider bar on the left side of the screen, and you have a firing mechanism on the right side of the screen in some levels. You can also opt for a D-pad steering method but I found this overcomplicated. The tilt controls felt really intuitive and it freed up your hands for the other stuff, like elevation and firing missiles.
The levels—and in turn, the overall narrative of the game—seem really basic on the surface. Some levels require you to fly intricate patterns around various rooms of a typical house, through hoops, navigating tricky landings. Other levels require you to retrieve water from the swimming pool to put out a barbecue fire. Other had you blowing out candles on a birthday cake by carefully wisping your copter over the tiny flames. In still others your copter is armed, which is always cool, and you get to blow away a house of cards with missles and a machine gun. At a certain point it reminded me a lot of the old Toy Story games on Nintendo. You have to solve everyday-object problems as if you’re a tiny shrunken hero. And I loved it.
The graphics in Helidroid 3 are a huge improvement over the earlier iterations and are rather impressive considering it comes from a small indie development house. After all, MH Production is a basic indie developer delving into a pretty simplistic 3D world. But while some of these sorts of games come off as half-cooked, this one was well-rounded and charming. The music worked well with the sound effects, though it does feel repetitive in those instances where you’re expected to replay the same level over and over again.
In fact, the game’s simplicity is probably what I liked most. It wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t. The developer didn’t bother with corny, tacked-on plot transitions. You just select your level and complete a specific task (a la Angry Birds). The quickness and flawlessness of your play dictates whether you’re awarded 1, 2 or 3 stars. What most surprised me is that each level is so starkly different from the last that it doesn’t get boring—I usually get really bored with games like Angry Birds.
With that said, I am at a bit of a loss for rating this game. There are details that the developers clearly neglected. And as I mentioned, the music was repetitive and annoying enough that I didn’t want to hear it for the entire level. This and the roughshod quality of some of the pre-mission screens seemed like afterthoughts. So I’m deducting points for the game’s occasional lack of polish.
At the end of the day, Helidroid 3: 3D will leave you pleasantly surprised. The game is fun, the challenges are appropriately difficult and the satisfaction of landing your helicopter on a speeding truck is simply beyond anything you’ll ever hope to achieve with a real life RC copter. But some of the title’s production values, while fitting for the game, don’t really warrant a perfect rating here. Add that to the just-good-enough sounds and the corny level instructions and you’ll see why I docked points from a game that entertained me as much as it did.
Firing up this simulator is a lot like a classic bout of web gaming. It reminded me of a 3D version of the classic Helicopter Game (courtesy of AddictingGames.com). And with 30 distinct challenges, plus a potential for even more, you’re getting your money’s worth. If you want a story and an immersive experience , look elsewhere (and pay more). But if you’re like me and you just want to take your helicopter for a spin, give this one a try.
Yeah, it is.
Tilt your way through a bounty of obstacles in Helidroid 3: 3D’s level-based, copter-centric action simulator.