The Switch's portable nature has made it an ideal home for games previously designed with the mobile market in mind, but not every port makes the transition as cleanly as the next. Question is, how does Invictus Games' second flight in the cockpit fare now that it’s taken to the skies of Ninty's hybrid hardware?
Thankfully, there's relatively little turbulence to report from this arcade-esque sequel, although there are a few bumpy moments here and there. Okay, enough with the flying analogy, let's dive into the game itself. Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 follows the format of its mobile and PC predecessor to a tee, placing you in a variety of hovering military vehicles that can fly up, down left and right along a 2.5D plane. Rather than relying on the analog sticks to guide you, it instead maps movement to the L and R buttons, with both buttons lifting you into the air and one or the other pulling you in either direction.
It’s a strange control scheme to wrap your head around, and our thumb keeps sliding back to the left analog stick out of sheer muscle memory. The stick does serve a function - it swings your vessel around to face the right direction - but it takes a while to consciously stop pulling it around. Every helicopter on the roster (there are nine in total, with three extra unlockable vehicles) is cumbersome to control, but this is by design rather than the product of poor coding. It’s all about using momentum and gravity, a system that becomes far more apparent when you’re trying to lower your chopper into a small gap to grab a collectible or land back at base in a hurry.
Since you’re heading into a warzone, it won’t shock you to learn there are plenty of enemy soldiers looking to shoot you down. There a trucks with gun mounts, SAM launchers, watch towers, tanks and more and each one will fill the sky with missiles and tracer fire. You can use your speed, and your height, to your advantage in each encounter, but you won’t be able to shoot back. Well, you won’t, but your chopper will.
This being a title built with the mobile market in mind, there’s a frustrating amount of automation involved. Your armoured whirlybird will engage the enemy as soon as it’s in range, so there is some degree of player agency as you pull in and out of firefights, but the game is determined to rigidly stick to its 'let's go rescue/deploy soldiers in the field' template (despite having many a mission entirely based around thinning enemy numbers). It's an issue not helped by a wildly unpredictable spectrum of difficulty spikes, but this can be mitigated by in-level Landing Zones (which we'll cover in a moment).
You do, however, have plenty of control of how armed your chosen chopper is, with everything from Gatling guns to myriad missiles available for purchase. Which brings us rather neatly onto DHR2’s economy. Gold coins are the name of the game, which can be acquired through completing missions, destroying enemies in battle and so on. Thankfully, there are no microtransactions present on Switch, and these virtual doubloons always come thick and fast. And you’ll be spending them just as swiftly, and often too.
You can buy and unlock new weapons for each type of helicopter - which include everything from light transport birds to apache-style gunships - and even purchase new whirlybirds in the menus. The real money sinks are Landing Zones, which can be found in numerous places across each mission’s 2.5D plane. Warzones can be tough places to survive so you can land at one of these resupply sites and restock your ammo, refill your health and save your progress thus far. It’s a neat little system not just because prices are relevant to your current state, but because of a invigorating sense of risk that comes with trying to successfully land a chopper on its last sliver of health. It feeds right back into DHR2’s physics, often forcing you to get the balance right while under fire.
The menu interface of these Landing Zones do present a problem, one that's present across the entire experience: a complete lack of touchscreen control. For a game designed with pure touchscreen controls in mind, there’s no option to use utilise its multi-touch display. Instead, you’re forced to navigate by the analog sticks, which are consistently clunky and slow to respond within menus. It doesn’t break the game, but it makes the busywork of customising your vehicle more of a chore than an exercise in empowerment.
With plenty of replay value to be had through mission rankings, in-game collectibles and a vast list of missions to undertake, Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 certainly offers plenty of aerial bang for its buck. The mission template does repeat a little too often, but thankfully the art of maneuvering your helicopter around each level often elevates whatever cookie cutter goal you’ve tasked with completing. Silly and challenging in equal measure, this little port makes a relatively painless landing on Nintendo Switch.