H.E.R.O. (an acronym standing for Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation) is a single-player video game published by Activision. First developed for the Atari 2600 and released in March 1984, the game was ported to many of the home computers and gaming consoles of that era. In the game, the player uses a helicopter backpack and other tools to rescue victims trapped deep in a mine.
The player assumes control of Roderick Hero (sometimes styled as "R. Hero", a play on "our 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.
A number of obstacles stand between Roderick and the miners. Some mine shafts are blocked by cave-ins, which require dynamite to clear, but Roderick must not stand too close when the dynamite explodes. The helmet laser can also destroy cave-ins, but it does so much more slowly than dynamite. Some mine sections are illuminated by lanterns. If the lantern is somehow destroyed, the layout of that section becomes invisible; exploding dynamite will light up the mine for a very short time. 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 will also be destroyed if they are close to exploding dynamite. In later levels, the player must contend with magma, which, like cave-ins, can be dynamited to clear a path, but like the mine creatures, is lethal when touched. Lastly, some deep mines are flooded, forcing players to hover safely above the water.
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.
Soon after its Atari 2600 launch, Activision ported H.E.R.O. to other gaming consoles available at the time, including the Atari 5200 and Colecovision systems. H.E.R.O. was also ported to home computer systems, with versions released for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64, MSX and ZX Spectrum. Sega reprogrammed the game and ported it to its SG-1000 gaming console in Japan in 1985; while the gameplay was identical, Sega changed the backpack from a helicopter to a jetpack.
More recently, H.E.R.O. has been included in compilations of Activision games released for later-generation gaming consoles, such as Activision Anthology. In June 2010, the Atari 2600 version of H.E.R.O. was re-released for Microsoft's Game Room service for the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows Live.