H.E.R.O - Retro Reflections - TBT

H.E.R.O. by developer and publisher Activision—Atari 2600 Throwback Thursday retro reflection written by Hamza. 1984.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Being an acronym for Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation, this title is easily one of Atari 2600’s best, if not the best. Unlike most others while trial-and-error works wonders, and where points are all that matter, H.E.R.O calls for something more. It calls for primitive strategy, pin-point precision and good fun where you get to be an 8-bit Alex Ryder or James Bond – or any action hero of your choice. But this assuming is rather unnecessary because the hero has a name, Roderick Hero, or R. Hero... a pun on “our hero”. Geddit?

Designed by John van Ryzinfor the 2600, and released in 1984, H.E.R.O was and is a pretty advanced and detailed game on the console. Every now and then I play a very impressive 2600 game, and I’m talking Enduro, Pitfall! & Demon Attack, but this game really tested my expectations. I thought it would be like Elevator Action set underground; or something like Commando or Ikari Warriors; but H.E.R.O. is in its own class and more entertaining than the aforementioned.

With almost no graphical or interactivity achievements to boast and to compliment, its color scheme, the movements of the protagonist and the creatures are enough to make H.E.R.O. a satisfactory and working game that’s indeed playable for long moments. Coming back to the color schemes, they’re warm, rich colors that keep with the theme of underground mines and it was a relief they weren’t as glaringly eye-sore-like as I witnessed in Duke Nukum. Pink and yellow? Get the hell out...

Taking control of “our hero”, the player has to rescue trapped miners – one per level. I made it to level 7 before losing all my lives, so if there are multiple miners to rescue in level, then I’m unaware of it. Equipped with an backpack-mounted helicopter unit, a lazer-shooting helmet and limited number of dynamites, the player must strategically blast away the cave-ins, shoot creatures, – both known and unknown –, be careful not to accidentally destroy lamps and rescue the hapless miner.

Though the premise is simple and one that has been mercilessly revamped to the top difficulty level in succeeding games, even the most experienced gamer will find H.E.R.O. to be an engagingly challenging experience, and the end result to be a polished, satisfactory title for the legendary console. Although I concur that there are far better games than this one, like Tapper, Adventure and Activision’s Tennis... but H.E.R.O. doesn’t disappoint and should be reason enough to back you up when you’re trying to convince someone that Atari 2600 games do not suck!

In conclusion, H.E.R.O. is a fun, challenging game that should make the 2600 lovers love the console all over again; and newcomers a reason to stick around a bit more and give the console and its games a further try. Besides this, I highly recommend the above titles as your starting point!

Note: Screenshots from all platforms that were available at the time can be found here at Moby Games.

Score: 8 / 10