Random Access Memory: Tri-Heli II

Welcome to Random Access Memory, where we delve into our collective unconscious and extract recollections of video games from our dim and distant past. This time, Graeme Currie recalls the somewhat obscure but brilliant 1994 Atari ST game Tri-Heli II, published by Budgie UK. If you’d like to submit your own memories of a cherished game, get in touch via the Contact form at the top of the page.

Tri-Heli II has a very simple objective: collect the diamond and return it back to your base. You have to do this twice, as you can only pick up one diamond at a time, and there are normally a maximum of three diamonds located underground. You have to blast the ground to reach them, and once you deliver them back to your base, your weapons are refilled.  Despite this simple objective, the game is hard to master, as some of those diamonds are located in particularly hard to reach places . Plus, while you’re digging, planes will appear and try to repair any damage done to the ground, meaning you have to be a swift excavator lest all your hard work is undone.

There are other things to watch out for, too. Water can flood certain areas of the map, and there is also some material that cannot be destroyed, meaning you’ll have to plan ahead to dig around it. In fact, you might have to make a very elaborate tunnel indeed to get at those diamonds. Trickiest of all, if you touch any part of the land, you lose a life. Because of the randomness of the game, there might be times where a diamond is located in an extremely hard to reach place; it might even be impossible, although this is rare. Most diamonds are reachable, it’s just about using the right approach.

If you are having to dig a long hole, one strategy is to destroy a lot of the land elsewhere first to keep the plane busy while you start tunnelling. And if enemies start appearing, one tactic is to destroy them by blasting the ground that they land on, all the while remembering to go back to your base to refill your ammo.

I remember my Dad really got into Tri-Heli II as well. The two of us got a long way into the game, and the further you progress, the harder and faster it gets. It also reminds me of Missile Command, as one of the enemies that appears shoots missiles that are similar to the ones in the old Atari arcade game. The graphics look really great with the moon and stars in the background, and the colour theme changes every few levels.

All in all, Tri-Heli II is a fantastic little game if you have a few minutes to spare (or longer, if you’re particularly good at it). The objective may be simple, but it’s fiendishly tricky to master, and very fun to play.

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