I can pinpoint my love of helicopter games to the Sega Genesis era, over twenty years ago. Back then it was Jungle Strike and Desert Strike from Electronic Arts that dished out satisfying copter missions in dangerous locations. In the years since, there have been a fair amount of helicopter games, but none that captured that same spirit for yours truly. Releasing with little warning, Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 is a sidescrolling helicopter game with clear mission objectives and a beautiful block art style. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, I quickly grew infatuated with this simple flight game.
You play as a combat helicopter pilot with a goal of completing 35 missions that usually involve enemy assault, cargo delivery or rescuing comrades. Completing missions earns you coins that are used to purchase new weapons. Money is also used at landing zones in each level (think of these as checkpoints) to replenish your health or weaponry. Your job as the pilot is to navigate each level, avoiding obstacles and choosing when to fight or run. The helicopter shoots enemies automatically when in position, letting you focus on flight. Complete your mission and land back at the base to earn stars and unlock new levels. Each level has 5 dog-tag collectables that are used to unlock new helicopters. With 11 different weapon types and 9 varieties of helicopters, there is no shortage of goodies to purchase.
When I first piloted my helicopter, I felt the control scheme was a bit jarring to use. Moving the pilot east or west is done with the LB or RB buttons on the Xbox Controller. Pushing both buttons at once will allow the copter to ascend. Pressing left and right on the d-pad will turn your helicopter in the corresponding direction. Your helicopter is affected by gravity, meaning you must always account for your altitude. The pilot must also land gently to avoid taking damage and as you would expect, crashing into anything with reasonable speed is an immediate death. I did find myself sometimes confused between objects I could safely pass through and those I could not. Many times I would abruptly crash into an obstacle that I thought was part of the foreground. Other times I thought I was dead for sure, only to breeze right through another obstacle. It is a bit inconsistent and did lead to a few retries. Nevertheless, the need to pay attention to these factors we typically ignore adds some enjoyable depth to otherwise routine missions. Despite initially feeling odd, I quickly adapted to the control scheme and grew to enjoy it.
There is some decent variety to the mission types, but they do tend to repeat as you move through the campaign. At first I only had to destroy a handful of vehicles, but later on I found myself navigating some tricky environments to rescue and evacuate some friendly soldiers. Scattered throughout each level are landing zones that allow you to save without penalty, should you crash you can simply restart at your last save. Regardless of whether you save, you always get to keep any collectable dog-tags you grab, a design choice I love.
There are two types of helicopters: attack and cargo, and you will unlock more as you progress through the campaign. Some helicopters are faster or stronger than others, certain cargo copters can hold more soldiers and attack copters dispatch enemies easier. You can choose to equip different types of weapons like a gatling gun or grenade launcher, which have stats of their own for damage, rate of fire and ammo capacity. I like having the freedom to choose whichever weapons and vehicles I desired, there are even crazier choices you can buy like a UFO and other interplanetary aircrafts.
When I first saw Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 in motion, I was instantly intrigued by the graphical style. Most will make the immediate comparison to Minecraft, and rightfully so. If you ever bought the Super Mario retro 3D or Legend of Zelda retro 3D amiibos, then picture an entire game in that style. It looks unique and smooth in motion and I also noticed distinctive depth from foreground to background. I was worried that the whole game took place in a desert environment, but thankfully there are more locations. Before long I was traversing wooded and industrial areas, many times with weather effects like wind that changed the feel of flying. The music is fitting, something you might hear in an action movie and the sound effects pack a nice punch that was unexpected, but welcome. I really hate the mapping of the buttons when paused, sadly. You have to press X to resume, but my natural instinct is to press B (which is used for most games). Pressing B will bring you back to the main menu and I accidentally quit levels when I didn’t want to on more than one occasion. I also wish I could see all of the star objectives during the mission, it appears you can only tell what the sub-objectives are after the mission is completed.
Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 is a typical game that comes out of nowhere and completely hooks me. I love how each mission has objectives that pose an enjoyable challenge with no ambiguity. If your goal is to earn every star and collect every dog-tag, then there is plenty of replay value to justify the $14.99 USD price point. I loved how there is no blood and enemies run away, rather than die. While there is shooting and explosions, I feel the rating of E10 is fair and parents of older children should feel comfortable letting them play. Sometimes keeping things simple and fun is the best design choice a developer can make. I’m happy to report that Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 checks all the quality boxes with solid controls, unique graphics and addictive gameplay.
A press copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.