Airheart is a 1986 video game for the Apple II. It was designed and programmed by Dan Gorlin and published by Brøderbund. It requires an Apple IIe enhanced (or later) to run, as it uses double hi-res graphics.
Airheart was a precursor to Gorlin's later game, Typhoon Thompson in Search for the Sea Child for 16-bit computers which is closer to what he originally envisioned for this game.
The name Airheart is the title the player aspires to earn. The user controls a jet-propelled flotation device. They must navigate their craft and fight robotic defenders. Spirit guardians instruct the player to gather certain items, such as a sword or a goblet. Gathering the items is a precursor to a final battle to free an infant boy prince.
Gorlin had great success with his first title, Choplifter, which he developed in about six months. Airheart, however, took about three years to develop. This is in large part because he additionally developed additional games which he lost interest in and never completed and additionally because he did a lot of research and built a number of tools to help in game development.
Gorlin was unable to include all the features he planned. At one point, for example, he had tunnel and underwater levels working, but was unable to complete them due to time constraints. Tunnels and islands, in fact, were key elements of his original vision for the game, but had to be scrapped, being too ambitious for the time.
The largest version of each sprite was created by hand, then Gorlin used proprietary tools to create the roughly twenty smaller versions. Storing these sprites in RAM, he was able to simulate scaling in realtime. Though the sprites used a lot of memory, it was the only method that satisfied Gorlin after he hated the low-polygon look of additional contemporary games.
Jordan Mechner visited Gorlin in 1986 and saw the final version of the game. He wrote in his journal "It’s got a few staggering special effects and it’s no fun at all to play."