It’s time for another walk down Nostalgia Street. This time, we’re visiting 8 year old me again, for another of the Atari 2600 treats. This week’s game was another Activision hit, Chopper Command.
8 year old me, and in fact now year old me, was/is obsessed with action packed flight games. The pickings were slim in ’82, but Chopper Command fit the bill quite nicely indeed. Here was a game in which I could pretend to be a pilot, escorting convoys through the desert, splashing MiGs and enemy choppers with frickin’ laser beams! Pew Pew!!! Er…I mean…ahem. Moving on…
My Code Name is Wild Bill, Muthafucka!
This was a fairly advanced concept for early 2600 games, a side-scroller that introduced a wrinkle to the classic “blow everything else the fuck up while you twitch like a mongoose on meth avoiding enemy missiles and try not to fucking die” formula. That wrinkle was the introduction of a friendly convoy crawling at ¼ the speed of smell across the bottom of the screen, serving as target practice for the enemy fighters. Your mission was to protect said convoy of militarized slugs as it inched across the bottom of the screen in ominous black vehicles.
This mission was made all the more challenging by the imaginative way enemy shots split in two and fired straight up and down. This of course defied all concepts of physics, merely existing to inspire thrown controllers to crash against walls in households everywhere. Wired controllers did have one advantage, ladies and gentlemen…they stopped before they hit the wall.
Chopper Command was accompanied by a slew of marketing peripherals, and in fact I’ve given you a gift here…that’s an actual mobile you can print out and fold up to have your very own Chopper to…well, command. As with many other Activision games, you could take a picture of your screen and send it in to get a groovy patch to try to beg mom to sew onto your jacket. (Blog tip #347…overuse of preposition? CHECK.) The Chopper Command patch was infinitely cooler than some of the other patches, for instance the Short Order Squad patch, which wouldn’t have been cool if it came with a pack of candy cigarettes.
Awesome on denim...
Granted, acing Chopper Command for the coveted end game score of 999,999 made you only slightly cooler than Barry Bostwick in a bodysuit and blue headband, but for an 8 year old, it’s the little victories in cool that matter, that push just a little more toward "awesome". Gameplay was repetitive, but then so was virtually every video game in the early 80’s. Story driven games just hadn’t been invented yet, and so it was up to a child’s imagination to create said story every time the power switch got flipped to “ON.”
And so it was, dressed in the flightsuit of my thermal-knit long underwear, that I would scramble fresh from a bowl of Count Chocula, climb into my cockpit, flip on the switches, and take control of a futuristic laser armed chopper to protect vanloads of loosely-defined “goodguys” against the privations of the dastardly and aptly named “badguys”. Even though the cockpit bore a striking resemblance to my bedroom, the scramble didn’t start until after I cleaned up the table, and the chopper existed mostly in my mind, there was a lot of fun and adventure to be had flying that two dimensional chopper, commanding a spot in the airspace over Nostalgia Street.