The Many Faces of . . . H.E.R.O.
By Alan Hewston

You are Roderick Hero, in H.E.R.O. Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation. This is an action/adventure game where you explore the mine to find the trapped miners using your unlimited power, lightweight, safe and easy to use jet-powered-propeller-pack. All 5 versions of H.E.R.O. use the same map for each level, at least up through level 17 or so, and all have practice modes, where you can start at a higher levels (5, 9, 13 or 17 (PRO)). Some versions (C64, CV, Atari 8-bit) have a pause button, which certainly can be useful, but all versions pause the action before each new life and at the start of each new level. Kudos go out to the Activision team for such quality control on their products, both then, and still today.

Score points for destroying walls or any of the handful of volcanic vermin you take out of their misery. You've got 6 sticks of dynamite and an unlimited-energy micro-laser beam (emits a ray from your helmet/visor). Complete each level by finding the trapped miner. You lose a life if your energy timer runs out, or you touch any hot magma, water, or vermin. Bonus points are scored for dynamite not used and any time left on the timer.

The most challenging aspect of this game are the pits and walls of lava that you must avoid. You can fly and hover over and around them, but there is a frustrating, built-in delay to flying, in all but the 5200 versions. So be patient while you learn to master the jet pack. Back in those days, an Activision patch could be earned with a score of 75,000 points. One of the highlights is finding out where or what the raft is, and then how to get off. Starting this month, Iíll post the scores for each category.

Game Designed by: John Van Ryzin ( All systems), and adapted by the Softworks.

Classic Platforms: Atari 2600, 5200, Atari 8-bit, Colecovision, and Commodore 64.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

The Have Nots: Atari 8-bit (42) & Atari 5200 (43)
The Atari 8-bit port is fun, but disappointing. The Gameplay only scores a (9). Using the laser to eliminate a wall takes forever and there is no sound or visual change when you partially break the wall. No hint that you are doing some damage to it. The Graphics (7) and Sound (7) were the lowest of the lot, as the bonus and scoring sounds seem cheap and incomplete. The Controls get a perfect (10)! Finally, the Addictiveness is outstanding (9), so it will bring you back over and over again.

The Atari 5200 Gameplay scores a perfect (10)! The Sound (8) and Graphics (8) are very good, but could be better. The Controls (8) are pretty good, but only if you have access to better 5200 sticks, otherwise the score would drop considerably. The Controls are further complicated by a 2nd fire button for using dynamite.  Finally, the controls are a bit too responsive, compared with the other versions.  This makes for easier learning and controlling early on, but do not provide the pin-point precision when it is required in harder levels.  Addictiveness still scores a (9), so it will bring you back over and over again...if you have better sticks.

Gold Medal: Atari 2600 (45), Commodore 64 (45), Colecovision (45)
I could not break the tie - Iíll leave that for you to decide. All three are great versions and each deserves the Gold medal. Most likely, the system that you prefer will probably yield your favorite version of H.E.R.O. as well. The Gameplay is perfect (10) and the Sound (8) very good for all three versions.

The Atari 2600 Graphics are good (7), yet I scored them the lowest due to their simplicity. But the simplicity makes them highly effective and clear - so perhaps I should have scored them a (10). Kinda like looking at todayís games. Do the extra graphics help, or hinder? After playing enough, I decided that the simple Graphics do make this game more enjoyable, and the Addictiveness score is rewarded top billing, a perfect (10) for that. Oh yeah, Roderickís character actually looks the best on the 2600 Graphics. The Controls also get a perfect (10).

The Colecovision Graphics are the best, scoring a (9), but this is just eye candy. The Controls are a real mystery but I still gave them a (9). Each controller, the standard CV (I still hate them but maybe Iím to picky), Wico (awkward), Amiga (2 buttons) and Super Action (2 buttons) works differently. 2 Buttons - meaning - similar to the 5200 where the second button ignites the Dynamite. I could not find a good rhythm playing with any of them. If the Atari 2600 stick would have worked, I may have given it a (10) but alas, it was not in the programming. The Addictiveness stills scores a very nice (9).

Iíve played the C64 version the most, so I may be too critical of it, but the Controls are still a perfect (10). Addictiveness was great (9), but Iíve already decide the 2600 was the best. Graphics were nice (8), but seem a tiny bit off from the Colecovision.

Hope you did not mind the three-way tie. I even had all three up and running simultaneously, and could not score any one of them lower. So if you love the simple Graphics (donít we all?), the 2600 is the way to go; If Controls donít bug you, then maybe the CV is the best; or if you need perfect control and some graphics, then the C64 is your choice.

Come back next month when I plan a Thanksgiving feast review of Pooyan for the Atari 8 bit, Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. Alan Hewston is still looking for a Y cable for joystick controllers so that he can play more of his Colecovision games with an Atari stick. Anyone with one for sale or trade, or knows why mine doesnít work can reach Alan at Hewston95@stratos.net.

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