Bloons (WiiWare)

Game Review

Bloons Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

Floats like a lead bloon

Balloons have a proud history on game consoles, stretching all the way back to Circus Atari on the venerable Atari VCS and Nintendo's Joust clone Balloon Fight. There's just something about popping balloons that tickles a part of our inner children it seems and it's an activity that generally translates well to video games. Enter Bloons — which you may already have discovered via flash games on the web or on the iPhone — a simple puzzle game about popping balloons. Now we don't have a problem with porting flash games to the Wii, but it is nice if the people doing the port appear to have put a little effort into it and it's even better if the source game is worth investing that effort into in the first place; sadly neither of these is true in this case.

The first sign that there's a problem is just after purchasing the game when you check out the Operations Guide. At first we thought possibly something was wrong with the table of contents because outside of the standard cut-and-paste Nintendo WiiWare boilerplate there was only a single page. Then you read that page and find that this is indeed the entirety of the Ops Guide which interestingly doesn't even tell you how the game is played and reads more like a press release — albeit without the courtesy of even a single screenshot.

The reason for this becomes clear when you look at the in-game tutorial, which consists of a bunch of text that might well be regarded as an Ops Guide, though a text-based tutorial combined with the lack of Ops Guide just screams out COULDN'T BE BOTHERED. This apparent lack of effort extends to the entire presentation of the menu interface: at no point is there a clue as to what buttons to use to even select options. There are six save profile slots; you use (A) to select one after using (DPAD) to highlight it. Your name entry screen marks the only time the pointer is used, though now bizarrely you click (B) to choose the letters, and there's no apparent method of deleting them once selected. The rest of the menus use (A) to select and (DPAD) to highlight options, but after that first introduction you're never quite sure what's going to be required.

Okay, so you've navigated through the menus, now to the game! Bloons is a simple, but challenging game with simplicity on the wrong side of "simple" and challenge on the wrong end of "difficult." There's a monkey holding a dart on one side of the screen and a bunch of balloons arranged in a pattern on the other. You use (DPAD) to adjust the power and arc of the monkey's dart throw, which is then executed with a remote wave. Your goal is to hit a minimum number of balloons with a limited number of darts in order to progress to the next level. It sounds simple and it is, but that's all there is to the game. You go through screen after screen of balloons, just chucking darts. Eventually you'll encounter special balloons that act like bombs and obstacles which get in the way — providing you manage to get that far because unfortunately popping balloons is literally a hit-or-miss affair.

We cannot tell you how many times we tried popping the target number on the third level, only to miss by one balloon. This was followed by much tweaking of throw strength and arc in the hopes of getting a better result, only to have a worse outcome or yet another "missed by one" result. It's incredibly frustrating because there's no clue as to where your dart will end up and you have just enough darts to make the target score so you cannot afford to fumble a throw. Since the three-score-and-ten levels are presented in a linear fashion not being able to get past one level is pretty much the end of the game unless you opt for the "unlimited darts" option. Naturally, doing that removes any sense of challenge completely, but it also doesn't unlock levels for replay or record your score; and in a sign of the attention to detail seen elsewhere, offers no means of quitting back to the main menu that we could see.

There's an editor included for creating your own levels, but the interface is quite poor, consisting of (DPAD) to move a cursor to determine object placement, (+) to position the monkey and then (A) and (B) to place and remove balloons. You cannot choose your balloon colour (they just come up randomly) and placing obstacles or special balloons — no descriptions are given of what they are here or anywhere else — consists of cycling through them by pressing a single button over and over again rather than something more clever like, say, using the pointer and a menu! Even if you do create some levels you cannot share your creations except with others of your household who are welcome to create their own profiles, but cannot participate in any kind of head-to-head play or even compare rankings via leaderboard.

The paper cut-out art style of Bloons is nice enough and the balloon popping sound effects are pleasing in the same way that popping bubble wrap is nice, but it takes a lot more than that to stand out on a platform with as many quality puzzle games as the Wii has. As a way to waste time at work or on some kind of long-distance commute we figure it might be an okay distraction, but as something to play in your lounge it just doesn't have the chops to warrant purchase.


Ninja Kiwi have made Bloons and its numerous sequels the foundation of their company, but it's simply not a game you can translate for a console as sloppily as developer Bloober Team and publisher Hands-On Games have done. Delivering a linear, overly simplistic puzzle game with poor presentation and no multiplayer doesn't cut it on the Wii — especially given the ridiculous difficulty curve in the level design. If you've got a balloon popping fetish you'll probably love it, but fans of quality puzzle games have a large selection of far better games at the same price point to choose from.

From the web

User Comments (33)



Roo said:

Released on the same day as Tomena Sanner? Pfft - they must be joking!



Porky said:

What a fast review sean, thanks! I thought this game was going to be like POP wiiware so I was thinking of getting Bloons but not no more.



Sean_Aaron said:

No, it's definitely not like POP. The flash version really wasn't much better, but at least you could play whatever levels you want. I really didn't want to talk about the remote wave much because I don't see it as a big problem, but seriously, why? How about using the pointer to help guide your dart?

Ah, what's the point...



SwerdMurd said:

Wow. It was like reading the Incoming! review again. Thanks Sean...and sorry you had to suffer through that.



InvisibleTune said:

I think the problem here is you don't like the original flash game, Sean, so that makes your review less useful. A lot of people do like that game and find it very addictive. I would rather have someone review the game that likes the original to see if it's a reasonable port or not.



Egg_miester said:

man why didn't they release Balloon tower defense game on wiiware i'd buy that but i never did care for the bloons game



Knux said:

@InivisibleTune-The original game wasn't exactly a great game in the first place. I could of bought this on PSP Minis, but it looked like shovelware to me. I think Sean did a great review, the game looks horrible anyway.



ejamer said:

@InvisibleTune: Have to disagree. I think the problem is that (compared to virtually any other games on WiiWare) this just isn't a very good game.

Popping balloons is fine, and there is nothing wrong with the base idea for this game... but when the developers make no effort to improve it over the most basic Flash game possible, why should anyone pay for this? Why not pick up the Internet Channel instead, and play this and endless other Flash games online?

Although I'm happy overall with WiiWare, seeing garbage like this getting released is a bit of a disappointment.



Sean_Aaron said:

@InvisibleTune: What I think about the original flash game isn't terribly relevant. The fact is that not everything that works as a flash game is automatically going to work as a WiiWare game. This was a shoddily executed port with little regard to the interface or the audience. If the difficulty curve was better I would certainly have upped my score a bit, but Bloons as a concept wouldn't rate more than a 5 from me as-is -- sorry it's just not that interesting a game to start with.



InvisibleTune said:

The PSP Bloons game was fairly well received with a 68 on metacritic. I'm not faulting Sean for not liking the game. I would have preferred that someone who had never played the original flash game or someone who likes the flash game reviewed this to get a better idea if I would enjoy the game. Isn't that what reading reviews is all about? Trying to decide if the game is for you or not? This review didn't help me because Sean doesn't like the original flash game.



InvisibleTune said:

I think it is relevant though Sean because as you say, you wouldn't give Bloons as a concept more than a 5... it is helpful to know though that the port was shoddily executed.



Sean_Aaron said:

Well, if we could find people that liked every game they reviewed then we'd probably end up giving good scores to everything and who would benefit from that?

Needless to say if you're curious you can always try out the flash game for free and get an idea of what's possible, but don't say I didn't warn ya!



Knux said:

@InvisibleTune-Oh good grief, Metacritic is very unreliable. For example, Sonic & Knuckles XBLA got a 69, but the game deserves a 90-100 score. That's why I never use Metacritic because it relies on a mixture of good and bad reviews. Besides, good and medicore games can have horrible ports. For example, the original Sonic the Hedgehog game is an awesome game. But, the GBA port is just horrible. If you dislike the review that much, just buy Bloons. But, I think you will regret purchasing it after playing it.



Strofan7 said:

Eh i disagree with the 2, id say its like a 4-5. But really, why wouldn't you just play this online if you have the option? I could see this as a DS or PSP game to take on the go but there really doesn't seem to be a point to have it on the wii..



thewiirocks said:

I find it interesting that Ninja Team feels like they can get away with such a sloppy port. If the DSi supported Flash, their market for this game would be completely non-existent!



Sean_Aaron said:

Well, being fair to Ninja Kiwi they just seem to have taken the money and let someone else do the port. It's odd you should mention DSi thewiirocks, because a DSiWare version is due in the future as well!

@Strofan7: I agree a 4 would have been in the cards if I could have progressed further in the main game. Spending 20+ minutes popping balloons in the same level over and over again got pretty old!



thewiirocks said:

You know what? I must have a mental block or something. Because even after reading that whole review with the WiiWare controls embedded in the text, I still came up thinking DSiWare!

I think the reason is that on the Wii, their market is non-existent. I can't verify it at the moment, but I bet if you point your Wii browser at the flash game, it will work just fine...



bluecat said:

"Balloons have a proud history on game consoles" - what a wonderful line, and when I now think about it so true! Shame this game isn't part of that history.



pagster said:

I didn't download this game - but I would disagree with such a low score. I agree that Bloons might be a better game to play at work or during a commute, as well as the menu problems/lack of head-to-head option.

But, I don't think that the game itself is very difficult. The developers should have included an easy mode that gave an extra dart or two - but really, everyone I knew (girls included) could reach level 20+ in only a few minutes. The game isn't asking for 100% completion (actually looks like 80%) - and the ability to precisely control your strength in the Wii version makes it even easier to control the dart's path (the Flash version based the strength on timing).

In the end, I'm wondering if this Bloons got a balanced look - rather than getting frustrated and awarding a low score. I agree with some of the other posters that this game probably deserved a 4.



KrazyKain said:

this is one of those games that belongs as a flash game. dsiware maybe because as everyone mentioned, you could play it during a commute. But it just isnt the kind of game you will sit on the sofa to play.



piguy101 said:

I personally love this flash game on the internet especially on a ninjakiwi run website called myninjakiwi.com they closed the site but it was fun to play 1,000s of user created levels. I think I'd get this for dsiware if it comes out.



Ricardo91 said:

"everyone I knew (girls included) could reach level 20+ in only a few minutes."

Nice sexism there.

I saw it coming. Bloons is decent little game, but it really doesn't work as a full-fledged digitally-distributed console game. Hopefully the DSiWare version will turn out better. It really is a much more suitable system for it.



Sean_Aaron said:

I think the best part is that if you play with unlimited darts the only options you get after playing a round is to progress to the next level (which you cannot unless you've previously unlocked it) or replay -- there's no option to go back to the main menu to play without unlimited darts. I cannot believe I left that out.

Seriously a 2 is generous as far as I'm concerned. The lack of thought and care that went into porting this is shocking. There's some pretty obvious things that could have been done to make it more accessible and having a better menu interface is the least of them. This definitely doesn't deserve a higher score.



Pablo17 said:

I wonder if this version of Bloons is a lot different from the iphone and PSP mini versions. I actually like both the iphone and PSP mini version of Bloons.

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