Wednesday 4 November 2015

Balloon Kid (Game Boy review)

Developer: Pax Softnica
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1990

Balloon Kid is a side-scrolling action game and the sequel to the 1984 Arcade classic Balloon Fight.

Playing as Alice, your mission is to rescue your brother Jim who's accidentally flown away. The screen scrolls from right-to-left and you need to avoid obstacles that include spiders and birds; if you touch them you'll lose one of your two attached balloons which act as your health. They can be restored by landing on a platform and repeatedly pressing Down but there's times you'll want to discard both of them so you can run and jump through small corridors. There's eight stages in total and the object is to reach the exit while collecting stray balloons for bonus points. The flight control is perfect and while the gameplay is slow it's relaxing in a similar way to Pilotwings (1991, SNES). There's little challenge early on but I loved Stage 4 where you're trapped inside a whale and need to find your way out. You only have five lives and two continues and you'll need them for the last two stages as they're brutal! In these there's hardly any platforms to land on, tons of spiked walls and lots of trial and error which can lead to frustration. There's four bosses including a bucket throwing snowman and a giant mutant fish; these can only be harmed by jumping on their head but the platforming control is slippery and it's easy to overshoot your target. There's also a Balloon Trip mode where you see how far you can advance on one life. It's fun but won't hold your attention for long as it's basically a less fleshed-out version of the main mode. VS Play is also available if you have a Game Link cable and sees two players racing to the finish line. The colours look vibrant with a Super Game Boy and the music is highly memorable.

Balloon Kid is packed with charm but don't be fooled by its cutesy exterior as the later stages are extremely challenging. Although the platforming and bosses are weak the majority of the game is enjoyable and overall it's a worthy sequel that successfully expands on the ideas found in the Arcade original.

Random trivia: The game was re-released on the Game Boy Color in 2000 as Balloon Fight GB and it included the ability to save your progress.

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