H.E.R.O. (Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation) is a video game developed by John Van Ryzin and published by Activision for the Atari 2600 in 1984. In the game, the player takes on the role of a rescue worker equipped with a helicopter backpack and various tools to save victims trapped in a mine.
The mine consists of multiple screens connected in a flip screen style, which means that the game transitions from one screen to another when the player reaches the edge of the current screen. As the player progresses through the mine, they must navigate a series of obstacles and challenges, such as walls, water, and dangerous creatures, while managing a limited supply of energy for their backpack.
The player can use a variety of tools, including a laser to destroy barriers, dynamite to clear blocked paths, and a limited supply of life-saving equipment to rescue the trapped victims. The goal of the game is to successfully navigate through the mine, rescuing as many victims as possible while avoiding hazards and conserving energy.
H.E.R.O. was well-received for its engaging gameplay, innovative mechanics, and challenging level design, and it remains a classic title in the Atari 2600 library.
The player assumes control of Roderick Hero (sometimes styled as “R. Hero”), a one-man rescue team. Miners working in Mount Leone are trapped, and it’s up to Roderick to reach them.
The player is equipped with a backpack-mounted helicopter unit, which allows him to hover and fly, along with a helmet-mounted laser and a limited supply of dynamite. Each level consists of a maze of mine shafts that Roderick must safely navigate in order to reach the miner trapped at the bottom. The backpack has a limited amount of power, so the player must reach the miner before the power supply is exhausted, in which the player restarts the level from the beginning if that happens. The player only needs enough power to reach the trapped miner – not to return with him as well.
Mine shafts may be blocked by cave-ins or magma, which require dynamite to clear. The helmet laser can also destroy cave-ins, but far more slowly than dynamite. Unlike a cave-in, magma is lethal when touched. Later levels include walls of magma with openings that alternate between open and closed requiring skillful navigation. The mine shafts are populated by spiders, bats and other unknown creatures that are deadly to the touch; these creatures can be destroyed using the laser or dynamite.
Some deep mines are flooded, forcing players to hover safely above the water. In later levels, monsters strike out from below the water. Some mine sections are illuminated by lanterns. If the lantern is somehow destroyed, the layout of that section becomes invisible. Exploding dynamite lights up the mine for a brief time.
Points are scored for each cave-in cleared and each creature destroyed. When the player reaches the miner, points are awarded for the rescue, along with the amount of power remaining in the backpack and for each remaining stick of dynamite. Extra lives are awarded for every 20,000 points scored.