It is a truth universally acknowledged that successful flash shooters must include upgrades, explosions and bullet time. HeliAttack 2, developed by Squarecircleco and distributed on Miniclip, was voted most addicting game of 2003 by, and remains the crowning achievement of Squarecircleco’s three-part heli series.

The first Heli showed a potential for greatness, but its artwork was overly simplistic, making the game feel tired and static. On top of that, its helicopters do ridiculous loop-de-loops.

HeliAttack 2 is an addictive work of glory. It incorporates the bullet-dodging mechanic common to top-down flying shooters (ala Raiden X), while giving less skilled players the opportunity to weave in and out of shots with the bullet time mechanic. This showed up a mere two years after the release of Max Payne, which introduced the mechanic to videogames. The ease of access, accessibility of weapons, and simple satisfaction of seeing a helicopter crashing to the ground made Heli2 great.

HeliAttack 3, while adding weapons, lost much of the magic of Heli2. It lost pick-up-and-play-ability with the addition of goals and levels, forcing experienced players through a humiliating training level. Moreover, it froze characters defenseless with one misclick outside the flash window. It was still great sending birds crashing to the earth, but the lame addition of land enemies overwhelmed the glorious sight of flaming choppers.

While Miniclip probably put significant pressure on Squarecircleco to follow up and add more features, the developers should have known that flash games are made and broken by simplicity. When one hits on a perfect formula — in this case, blowing up helicopters with rpgs in slow-motion — it’s best not to rejigger perfection.