Capsule Review: Balloon Kid

A sequel to Balloon Fight that takes the “Balloon Trip” concept and expands it into a full platformer. Play as Alice, a girl who can fly just like a Balloon Fighter with her two balloons. Taking damage will pop first one balloon, leaving you with less lift, and then the second, leaving you unable to fly - but you can still run and jump and if you land on solid ground you can inflate new balloons. You can even manually let go of your balloons at any time, which is sometimes useful to take alternate paths. Navigate eight autoscrolling levels collecting balloons for points, avoiding hazards, and defeating enemies (including boss fights at the end of even-numbered levels) to save your little brother. There is also a two-player mode in which you compete to collect balloons, and Balloon Fight’s Balloon Trip mode is also copied over essentially unaltered.

Levels are considerably more complex than found in Balloon Fight, with a variety of terrain, enemies, and obstacles. Correspondingly, Alice has more control options than the Balloon Fighters did and can operate competently without balloons at all (though there are enough huge pits in the game that you generally want to get airborne again as quickly as possible). The controls are still easy to pick up (though nothing in the game itself tells you that you have to press “down” to reinflate balloons) with the flight physics being satisfying to master.

The fact that you can take two hits and still recover fully if you manage to find a place to land makes for a nice wide competence zone - as you improve your skill you’ll avoid those hits and collect more balloons instead. There are also generous checkpoints, though these are only helpful until you run out of lives. Unfortunately, once you pass the game’s halfway point and reach Stage 5 the difficulty ramps up in unfortunate ways with the introduction of multiple instant-death hazards. This greatly shrinks the competence zone that had served so well and you can quickly burn through your limited lives.

All in all, bringing this style of gameplay to a fleshed-out platformer makes for a satisfying single-player experience. It’s refreshing to use the flight physics to traverse designed levels with novel obstacles rather than just fight the same enemies. While it’s hard to blame the game much for having limited lives, as this was standard at the time, it’d be much more palatable to modern audiences with an infinite lives cheat.

I Stopped Playing When: I lost all my lives in Stage 5 and saw that the frustration level of the game was about to skyrocket.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.