(Game Boy)

Balloon Kid (Game Boy)

Game Review

Balloon Kid Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Somewhat deflated

Balloon Kid is the Game Boy sequel to the NES original Balloon Fight. That game is remembered by some as a stone-cold classic of addictive action, and by others as a pointless, repetitive chore. In our Balloon Fight review we fell somewhere in the middle. And so it's quite fitting that we also find ourselves there for the sequel.

Balloon Kid, for starters, has an actual story. One morning, Alice's little brother floats away on a bunch of balloons, so Alice grabs a few balloons herself and chases after him, battling wolves, electricity and bugs as she goes.

We didn't say it was a good story.

Balloon Kid takes great pains to expand the Balloon Fight experience, but this expansion causes at least as many problems as it solves. For example, while Balloon Fight was quite efficiently contained in single screens, Balloon Kid delivers stages so expansive that they scroll in all four directions. This is often problematic as it can obscure the presence of both bonus items and hazards, and that seems more like an unfortunate side effect of the Game Boy's limited screen size than a deliberate development choice. Often times choosing the correct path is due more to blind luck than skill, and that's disappointing.

Balloon Kid also wishes to expand upon the abilities present in the original Balloon Fight. This means that instead of just two "fly" buttons you also have the ability to blow up new balloons — an admittedly fun nod to the enemy behaviour of the original game — and also to release your balloons totally. This latter function is all too easily triggered by a stray thumb, and can often lead to instant death. Why it was included in the Balloon Trip mode (more on this later) is even more puzzling, as there's no solid ground to land on in the first place.

When you release your balloons you can run around and jump, just like in a normal platformer. Or, at least, like in a normal platformer with truly awful controls. The jumping uses some of the strangest physics we've ever encountered, and the inexplicable "bounciness" of Alice makes it difficult to ever really get a hold on it. In general, the controls are loose and slippery — much moreso than the already floaty Balloon Fight — but when on foot it's even worse.

The flying-right-to-left gameplay is spiced up somewhat by the inclusion of boss battles and bonus rounds. The bonus rounds are fun enough — and another great nod to the first game — but the boss battles are all rather trite, and the fact that you have to drop your balloons to fight them means they're more a frustration than anything to look forward to.

The game also suffers from the issue of being criminally dull for at least the first four stages. After that the experience picks up a bit, but any real challenge will be found by completionists only, who mean to grab every balloon in every stage.

There are also two other modes in the game: Vs. Play and Balloon Trip. Similar to the same mode in the first game, Balloon Trip is a score-attack round that finds you dodging hazards and collecting balloons. It's far more entertaining than the main game, but it still suffers from the unfortunate necessity of four-way scrolling and the sloppy controls. As far as Vs. Play goes, well, you've heard enough from us about our frustrations with Game Boy games being stripped of their two-player modes, so we'll just say this: yes, there was a two-player mode. Yes, it was fun. And no, you can't play it here.

All in all, Balloon Kid feels like an attempt to inflate the original game to impressive new proportions. Unfortunately they seemed to run out of breath halfway through, and we're left with a mediocre attempt at a game that really should pop.

Conclusion

Balloon Kid isn't without its charms, but those charms are pretty superficial: the graphics are nice and the music is fun, and the nods to Balloon Fight are all worth a smile. But the game itself is sloppy, aimless, and often rather dull. There are certainly worse offerings in the eShop, but we really do wish this one rose a great deal higher.

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User Comments (45)

CorbsAdmin

#1

Corbs said:

I like the game, but it is rather redundant. Certainly not going to appeal to just anyone. Great review Phil. :D

ToneDeath

#2

ToneDeath said:

I thought the idea behind this game was great, but only got to play a couple of levels. I've waited years to play it again, but this review is disappointing :(
If I can find some other decent, but more positive reviews I'll hopefully still let myself give it a go when it comes to Europe.

Link79

#3

Link79 said:

Dang are you kidding me? A 4/10?
Even IGN gave this a good review. Them of all people.
It doesn't look all that bad. I bet I'd like it more than the original.
I might get it anyway.

eviLaTtenDant

#4

eviLaTtenDant said:

Seems like they would have been better off to to remake and offer it as 3DS Ware. (A map and cool rewards for collecting as many balloons as possible could help i guess.) I'd definitely be interested in that or a brand new Balloon Kid / Fight platformer.

realar

#5

realar said:

I like the game, it's a ride no less and you should treat it as such. I wasn't going to pass up the sequel to one of my fave NES games. Hey she may not be Balloon Fighter but she has more moves than him. Plus, this game departs from a Joust based formula so we have something distinct. Sure the boss battles are not much, but seriously we didn't get bosses in the first game. So there's another positive. There's more music so that's another plus. Honestly, I don't pass up a first party GB title even if this site says it's not as good. The fact we have reserve points ups the score more than the original cartridge. I give this game a 7.

Link79

#7

Link79 said:

I honestly didn't care much for the original.
The Joust style gameplay got boring real fast.
Since the sequel is a platformer with bosses and actually throws is some variety I find it more apealing. Yeah I think I'll get it.

ToneDeath

#8

ToneDeath said:

I'm pretty sure this game was based more on the Balloon Trip mode from Balloon Fight, not so much the Joust-like gameplay of the main mode. I always liked the Balloon Trip mode more anyway.

Apparently Japan got the Game Boy Color version of this? Oh well...

NX01Trekkie1992

#9

NX01Trekkie1992 said:

I'll probably stick with Balloon fight since I got it free as an ambassador, looks interesting though

Kifa

#10

Kifa said:

Well, for anyone who has the Ambassador games this is redundant, and I doubt if anyone else would really want to pick up this version.

Sometimes I just can't get my head around Nintendo throwing junk on the 3DS VC while great games like Donkey Kong Land and Metroid II (I know I'm repeating myself) are kept in the dark. If somebody can explain the logic behind it then be my guest... :|

Link79

#11

Link79 said:

I don't see how this is redundant when it's a completely different game from the original.
It's not just a Gameboy version of the Nes game.
Also I can't find one negative review online except right here on Nintendolife.
Gamefaqs has all positive reviews as well as Ign. This score does not compute.

eviLaTtenDant

#12

eviLaTtenDant said:

Or maybe it happened accidentally because Phil usually has to give low scores and just got used to it. ;)

James

#13

James said:

@Link79 Gamers don't always agree on what's good and what's not, so it makes sense that reviewers shouldn't either :)

ToneDeath

#14

ToneDeath said:

I remember it being described as a Game Boy classic by N64 Magazine, reviewers that I trusted pretty much 100% back in the day.

At the moment I feel confident that at worst it might be average (albeit with an unusual style of gameplay) but certainly not a bad game. I remember enjoying the one or two levels I played, and liking the way it took the Balloon Trip concept further.

So I guess I've pretty much convinced myself to get it anyway (if/when it comes to Europe) even if I end up getting stuck two-thirds of the way in and never beat it!

eviLaTtenDant

#16

eviLaTtenDant said:

Nintendo likes Nintendo Life, right ? After seeing the review it would really be a great idea if they gave us a short demo so we can see if this game is worth it ourselves. :)

meppi

#17

meppi said:

Can't say I agree with this at all.
Loved the game back in the day. :-/

Zach

#18

Zach said:

@Link79 According to Wikipedia, Mean Machines gave this a 51% back in the day and called it "repetitive" and "mediocre", so there's that concurring opinion as well.

Adam

#19

Adam said:

The game does not scroll in four directions, only three — auto-left and manually up and down — and scrolling upward is never really a problem in Single Play. Unless you're forced to go up, you really shouldn't, except for the one instance where a bonus round is hidden at the top of the screen later on.

The paths are easy to follow because they have balloons. There's almost never a choice between more than two paths. Choosing one without balloons will usually mean an easier path or a bonus round. It's not exactly Metroid.

I would think most people will find a good challenge from the last four levels even if not collecting all the balloons. I thought they were pretty tough, myself, and only made it through on my first try using the restore points. Now I want to set up a restore point before level 5 and just play the second half of the game again and again.

The balloon release button is problematic at first when you aren't used to it, but once you have pressed it accidentally a couple times you very quickly learn to keep your thumb only over the A button. Problem solved, unless you are prone to random thumb spasms.

Seriously, this review is not what we agreed upon. We need to talk. I'm beginning to think you're just writing these all on your own.

Adam

#21

Adam said:

Balloon Trip is historically recognized as the first in the popular post-modern balloon flying genre.

Adam

#23

Adam said:

Adam is an entirely different person, and that kind of discussion is off topic for my review anyway.

gojira

#26

gojira said:

I actually quite like this game a lot. I don't disagree with the issues brought up, I just don't think they're that bad. It doesn't help that I loved Joust as a kid and enjoyed Balloon Fight. So an expanded version of this gameplay is quite welcomed by myself.

Samholy

#27

Samholy said:

i loved it when i was younger. cant say i will today, but ill get it for the nostalgia around it. its a title i remember a lot from the gameboy era, and there isnt a lot of them.

but not knowing it first, i would never ever buy it. i remember it was hard, very hard. bouncy too. too bouncy.

Geonjaha

#28

Geonjaha said:

The first game is really fun. Yes, its repetitive, but repetitive like Super Mario for the NES; its fun.

The controls in the original are odd, but you're flying with balloons - its good to see something new there. Its not as if the control is random and ridiculous - its easily controllable once you learn how to do it. Complaints about controls just need to be given time and practice (why do some people expect to be able to just pick up a game and be able to control everything easily? - shows how much innovation there is in gameplay movement now). In this version the controls are a little more slippery than the NES version, but that just provides more of a challenge; it means you cant always dive in for every balloon without a threat of dying.

The fact that there are 4 directions that you can fly in arguably means you wont get the same experience every time you replay it if you're the kind of person that flys through it quickly, and means you are less confined. True - it means you can fly straight up into spikes, but once again - that just adds to the challenge of caution.

I'm sampling this game for the first time and I would say that it deserves a 6/10 - taking into account the control difficulty and flaws in some areas. It's still not bad for a GB game.

Tsuchinoko

#32

Tsuchinoko said:

I agree with a lot of the comments here. I liked this game a lot as a kid, and yeah the controls are wonky but nothing that can't be learned. I remember having lots of fun with this game when it first came out. I would have given it a 6 or 7.

Adam

#33

Adam said:

That is one of my favorite works of art, Warioswoods. Much better than the original.

TNLGUY

#34

TNLGUY said:

I would've gave it more than a four even with its control issues. This one is easily worth the asking price and should be played by anyone looking for a pleasant, affordable distraction.

Groovius

#37

Groovius said:

@Kifa: Nintendo's plan for the 3DS Virtual Console seems to be something along the lines of this...

#1: Release only Game Boy games for the first [X] months of service, maximizing sales of black & white games while there is no competition from GBC titles. Link's Awakening DX, of course, was an exception we got because of Zelda's 25th anniversary.

#2: Release these Game Boy titles in a slooooowwww.... triiiiiiiiickle..... further enhancing sales. If a piece of garbage is released- but it's the only VC title of the week- desperate retro fans will snap it up. Enough of them will, anyway, to make it very profitable. And the longer we have to wait for, you know, the actual classics- they'll sell even better, too!

In short, the whole system is a cynical money-grabbing scheme that works. Believe me, I'm caught up in it, too. They do it because they can, and they know they'll get away with it. 10 WEEKS: Golf, Balloon Kid, Baseball, etc etc. At the eleventh week, we'll get a Metroid II, or a Wario Land, all is forgiven, and the cycle begins again.

JeanLuc_Vaycard

#38

JeanLuc_Vaycard said:

Don't really agree with the review, but whatev. Maybe I'm blinded by nostalgia as i played this game over and over as a kid. Plan on getting this again.

Beau_Skunk

#40

Beau_Skunk said:

I seem to be the only person in the universe who was waiting for this game to come to 3DS's Virtual Console.

Seems like most people, and reviewers on this site arn't really fans of these simplistic old arcade-style games. If you like Pac Man, Donkey Kong Jr., or other such old-school arcade games, or the original Balloon Fight, then I say give this one a shot. (If you ask me "Balloon Fight" was better then "Joust")
It feels like an advanced version of "Balloon Fight" with a few "platformer/side-scroller" game concepts added to, wich is actually pretty cool if you liked the original Balloon Fight. (Wich I loved personally.) They did a good job recreating the momentum movement-based gameplay from "Balloon Fight" if you asked me, and expanded on it a bit.
Some of the music's pretty catchy to for a Gameboy game. The game may be "short & easy" according to some gamers, but that didn't seem to stop the Super Mario Land games from getting "good" reviews, I noticed. Not trying to bash the reviewers, (no offense ment to them) I just think they don't understand or like some of these old-school games. Just giving my 2-cents, as well.

I think it's a pretty good game given the cheap price it has personally.

Mok

#43

Mok said:

Looks and I don't have any happy nostalgia memories from the NES game. Will avoid.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#44

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Couldn't get into the NES Ambassador game after all this time tbh. This sounds significantly better in a wierd way. Nintendo Gamer gave it a 76/100 surprisingly. I'll think about it

Beau_Skunk

#45

Beau_Skunk said:

To be honest I think this review is way to harsh...
For a 3 dollar game, it's actually pretty good, especially if you're a fan of "Balloon Fight." This takes the "Balloon Fight" gameplay style, and physics, and puts them into a sidescrolling action game, and it actually works very well. (Better then the reviewer claims in my opinion.)
The new gameplay element of letting go of your balloons, and being able to reinflate them again, also adds a nice new gimmick to the game, allowing you to access secret passages, and the bonus games are nice throwback to the original Balloon Fight. The being on foot controls take a li'l getting used to, but are NOT as bad as the reviewer claims, I felt. (In fact, you can jump quite high in this game, and also regrab your balloons, if you let them go, which comes in handy in boss battles.)
The game's a bit short, (Only 8 stages long, which is still pretty decent for an early Gameboy game, and it lasted longer to me then some) but if you're going to fault this game for being "short," you might as well fault Kirby's Dream Land, and Super Mario Land 1, as well, which were just as short. Honestly, it's so much fun to me, that I don't mind playing through it again, and again, and trying to get a "Perfect" on each level, or trying to get better, or find all the bonus stages.
he soundtrack is also great, and done by Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka. (I think I even love the Stage 1 & 5 theme better then the original Balloon Fight themesong, which it is kinda a remix of.)
Also, regardless what the reviewer claims, the "limited screen" size was never an issue with me in this game. (Other beloved Gameboy games like Metroid 2 & SML2 also had the screen zoomed in a bit to, and nobody complained about them hardly.) The game also has good visuals, and good variety of enemies.
I've also been able to beat the bosses using balloons, so you don't need to drop them in order to fight them, except when trying to stomp/attack them, like the reviewer claims. So there's actually several different ways to beat them, and the levels, which makes the game feel a bit innovative, regardless how simple it is.
But overall, the game feels like a good portable title. I also liked the inclusion of the endless "Balloon Trip" mode if you need a break from the main game.

So I say, if you loved Balloon Fight, then definitely get this game. I'd give it a 7/10 personally.

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