Review by Phediuk

"Once you pop, you just can't stop!"

Yesterday, I went out to my local Wal-mart (it's the only thing we have around where I live) and purchased myself an e-Reader. While I was impressed by the technology, I was not especially enthused with the complimentary game Donkey Kong Jr.
Okay, I thought it sucked. I found myself playing Manhole and that little Pokemon Card Machop minigame more than I was playing my free NES game. So, this morning, I went out and bought the other 4 available NES games. Pinball and Tennis certainly weren't the finest pieces of software to grace the Earth, even on the NES. Excitebike was a lot of fun, but still, the best of the batch was definitely Balloon Fight. Sure, it may be a Joust clone, and it may have control *issues*, but it does deliver that on-the-go fun to wake you up in the morning.

I didn't play this game a whole lot on the NES. I recall renting it from our video store a few times, but that was many years ago. Enough rambling, let's get on with the review!

YOU'RE FULL OF HOT AIR, Y'KNOW THAT?

You control the nameless Balloon Fighter in his quest to defeat strange bird-like creatures, simply by giving them a good bop on the head, thus popping their balloons, and thus falling into a lake which contains a hungry fish. But here's the catch: you must maneuver yourself while being suspended by two balloons. You must fly like a birdie in order to bop your enemies' heads. The floaty controls make this task a lot more difficult than it should be. Anyway, when you start a level, the strange bird-like creatures will take a second or two to inflate their balloons. During this time, if you are as quick as Speedy Gonzales, you can ambush your enemies before they're even in the game. Simply touch them before they take flight, and they will tumble to inevitable death. If they DO manage to blow up their balloons, you will have to perform the usual bop-on-the-head routine. Once the strange bird-like creature's balloons are popped, they will resort to a parachute and float gently to the ground. From there, you can either let them float into the water and get eaten by a hungry fish, or give them another good bop on the head, taking them out of the game. Once all enemies have been defeated, you move on to the next level.

Of course, during this time, you've got to fend for your life, as well. If a strange bird-like creature's body touches one of your balloons, it will pop, and you will be left dangling on a single balloon. The controls will be even more floaty as long as you have one balloon, and if you are touched again, you will fall into the lake and be eaten by a hungry fish. As long as you still have at least one more life, you will reappear seconds later at the starting point of the level. Of course, this exploits a fatal flaw in the game: there is absolutely no way to earn an extra life, and the only way to restore a lost balloon is to make it to a bonus round, where a second one will magically appear on your body.
Enemies aren't your only obstacle. The storm clouds in each level will fire deadly bolts of ball lightning (AHA! So it IS real!) on occasion that will bounce around the level indefinitely until either you clear it, or you fly into it, which equals instant death.
Then, in the seventh level, a new evil is introduced: the Flipper. When you bump into the Flipper, you will be lightly thrown back, and the Flipper will start to spin for a lengthy period of time. If you happen to bump into the Flipper while spinning, you will be thrown in a random direction out of control until you slow down from the throw.

After clearing three levels, you will be sent to the bonus stage, where 20 balloons will float up out of 4 pipes. It's your job to pop as many balloons as you can before they float up and away, off the screen.

DOCTOR, I'M FEELING A BIT LIGHT-HEADED TODAY.......

Okay, let's cut it to the chase: the controls suck. On land, you have only a pitiful running ability which is absolutely useless. But at least you can control yourself while grounded. But when you take flight, you'll find yourself zipping all over the screen, trying to move your Balloon Fighter over to that helpless strange bird-like creature. While floating, you can use the A button for a pathetic little flap which does absolutely nothing. If you rapidly tap A you will sloooooowly float upwards. It is infinitely more useful to use the B button, which does all the A tapping for you. As long as you hold B, you will float up indefinitely.

This would be fine, except for one crucial flaw in the controls: in order to maneuver while in midair, you must hold the B button (or A button, but then again, B is for better) and then push in your desired direction. This makes for extremely cheap deaths on many occasions. BUT WAIT! One last nitpick sends it over the edge. Whatever halfwit designed the game decided to make the levels loop around themselves. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go play Super Mario Bros. 2. Notice how, in the vertical shafts, if there is no wall to block you, you can walk right through the side of the shaft and end up instantly on the other side. When you were once on the right, you are now on the left. Get it? Anyway, looping works for SMB2, but definitely not for Balloon Fight.

As for difficulty, Balloon Fight is quite the challenge. The regular mode, in which you must defeat all enemies to advance, is extremely cheap and makes you want to scream after a while.

That's where the Balloon Trip mode comes into play. On this mode, you are sent to an auto-scrolling area in which you must grab balloons and avoid bolts of ball lightning. Fun, fun, fun. The only drawback to Balloon Trip is that you have but a single life to play with.

ARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

The graphics in this game are fine. Your Balloon Fighter stands out against the eternally black background, and the strange bird-like creatures are ugly, but they stand out as well. The game seems kinda dark at times, however. Not much else to say here, this was an NES game, man!
The sound is just what you'd expect; teeth gritting, ear-bleeding screeching which just makes you want to shoot yourself after a while. The sounds of the strange-bird like creatures' wings flapping has to be the most abominable noise known to man. Trust me, you will never want to hear it. The rest of the sound in this game isn't much better, and outside of a few ditties and jingles, the only music track in the game is in the bonus level theme, which is a woefully average tune.

STRONG POINTS:

-Balloon Trip defines fun
-Graphics are decent
-Despite its flaws, the main mode is pretty fun, too
-Three words: Two. Player. Mode.
-Portable

WEAK POINTS:

-The main mode defines cheap
-The noise
-All of the audio
-Horrid controls

I think I've covered everything I need to cover in the review.......believe me, this game is definitely worth your $5 for the card pack. The price shouldn't even be a factor. It's portable, and it's a good game.

Phediuk out.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/28/02, Updated 09/28/02


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