Review by Myzery_Clown
"Mommy, he popped my balloon! Give him a spanking!"
Video games have certainly put their human subjects in some truly unique positions. Perhaps you’re a rapping dog trying to win over a cartoon rabbit as your love. Maybe you can recall being placed in front of a four armed monstrosity, being forced to fight him to the death in order to save your world. We’ve even been put in the shoes of a fat, Italian Plummer in everything from board games to kart races. However, have you ever been a little kid in a red jumpsuit, held airborne by two balloons? And as this lil bugger, whom is obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, ever been the outlet through which you pop other little jumpsuit wearing kids’ own balloons and then stomp on them afterward? I didn’t particularly think so, and if you have, well, maybe you should look into seeing some shrink or other for all that pent up anger! Yet even the most warm hearted of us could get something from Balloon Fight, one of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s first jewels back in 1985, before yours truly was even sucking on his thumb in a crib!
Attached to your rear end are two balloons. By pressing A rapidly, you can raise up your “balloonist” to heights unmatched by other forms of transportation such as jumping, running, or the occasional attempt at flying from the branches of a tree. You’re put in a level with many other crazy peeps like you, all wearing pink, green, or tan suits and having a sole balloon to propel them as well. Your goal, you sadistic child, is to pop your little neighborhood friends’ balloons and then dispose of them as they’re falling or after they’ve hit the ground before they can refill their helium jetpacks with more air and come back at you with a vengeance. The simplistic addiction that this task carries with it is oddly entertaining, as spending hours popping balloons and avoiding other obstacles such as lightning bolts and large, orange fish just waiting for a quick snack is like playing with the slinky in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. Next thing you know, you’ve missed dinner. Oh well, back to popping.
Your balloon popping fun can be handled in three different ways. Of course, you can just start out at the first level and pop balloons and stomp fallen balloonists, raking in points by the thousands. Hook in a second player controller and you and a friend can go at it cooperatively or in competition in this same way. The third and final mode, balloon trip, is an odd mode that finds you in a never ending side scrolling stage attempting to avoid the aforementioned hungry beasts and lightning sparks. That’s it. There’s nothing more to do. Just pop balloons, don’t get hit by lightning, and try to take advantage of the periodical bonus stages by catching all the balloons you can as they come floating out of some sort of tubular structures. Sounds boring, kind of like the waiting room of a doctor’s office with no slinky, right? It isn’t. Scoring points and popping balloons couldn’t be more entertaining, actually.
The only fault that I can place on Balloon Fight’s head concerning gameplay is the controls. As said before, you have two balloons, and should one of your own be popped, you’ll have a difficult time managing to stay alive, as your tapping of the A button constantly will only be half as effective. Controls then were intended to be blocky and difficult to maneuver, as it emphasized the importance of keeping both balloons whenever possible. However, even with your second balloon present, the controls can get quite frisky at times, sometimes over exaggerating actions. Should you attempt to make a curving swoop down to the elusive tan balloonist, trying to burst his balloon, you could very frequently find yourself going down too fast or curving too much, making the attempt a vain one on top of leaving you open for that same opposition to pop one of your own precious balloons. Time after time you’ll find yourself plummeting to the ground balloonless and fully aware the game’s questionable controls caused you to lose a life. However, you’ll continue to play, determined to get that point total you’ve been gunning for…Until the proverbial doctor comes out and says your name, at which point the “slinky” will be forgotten until the next visit.
Floating through the skies isn’t as beautiful as one would at first assume, at least not in this incarnation of it. The backgrounds are very bland, with the only real purpose being the scattered clouds that are the source of the lightning that can prove to be such a hazard. The terrains that you have below you are detailed enough to let you know if you’re above the hungry creature’s pond or not, but aside from these necessities, the environment detail does little to enhance the experience. All of the balloonborne floaters are simply versions of one another with colors changed up to tell your own from the rest of the pack. Different colored balloonists also have different AI and ability, as a pink balloonist will have sloppy handling and poor tactics, but those tan balloonists move with smooth grace and seem to have a good head on their shoulders too. However, again, aside from what’s necessary the characters are very bland and uninteresting.
Perhaps it would’ve been better to make Balloon Fight a quiet entertainment, because the audible faces of the game are quite bland or, in some cases, annoying. The swooshing of your jump suit wearing hero’s arms flapping as well as the constant pop of balloons tend to fade into the background leaving no lasting mark nor memory of bad sounds thrumming into your head. The music, on the other hand, isn’t able to be zoned out easily without simply muting the TV, and the constant, shrill noises passed off as music do, unlike their sound affect brethren, pound into your head like a hammer, echoing in your skull long after you’ve turned the game off. Your best bet would be to provide your own audio entertainment for this one.
While not an aesthetic gem, even for its time, Balloon Fight plays the role of the slinky in the doctor’s office well. If the situation presents itself, you’ll start playing balloon fight and not quit until something more interesting grasps your attention. And when Balloon Fight is put away, return trips in the same week or even month are not a commodity, but instead another afternoon of balloon popping fun will show itself many months into the future. Balloon Fight is not something you’ll play over and over again, but the addicting and simplistic fun that will be had with it are worth the price of admission, which is practically nothing 17 years later. Certainly recommendable, but don’t worry, your social life will not be jeopardized by Balloon Fight’s presence in your game collection.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/05/02, Updated 10/05/02
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