Game: Balloon Kid
Developer: Pax Softnica
Release date: 1990
Last week, I published a little write-up (read it here) on this game's Famicom-based kinda-sorta remake, Hello Kitty World. I'm sure some will say it's overkill to review the original so soon afterward, but that's not how I see it. Instead, I'm thinking of this "Great Gaymathon" review as being the blogging equivalent of "striking while the iron's hot"--as in, why not chat about Balloon Kid while Hello Kitty World's still fresh in your brains?
Anyway, enough about that. You're probably wondering what sets this breezy release (you can beat its eight stages in an hour or two, if you're skilled enough) apart from its console-based follow-up. There aren't as many differentiators as you might think, to tell you the truth. The most obvious ones: 1) Balloon Kid stars a wee lass named Annie as opposed to Hello Kitty, 2) Annie's goal is to save her kid brother Jim while Kitty-chan has to rescue some Sanrio character named Tippy, 3) the GameBoy title is a black-and-white affair while the Famicom one is in full color, and 4) although the camera is zoomed-out in Hello Kitty World, it's much closer to the action in Balloon Kid.
Every other aspect of these auto-scrolling platformers is pretty similar. Both buck tradition and progress from right to left. Their plucky protagonists use balloons rather than their legs to move around as well as to avoid enemies--which include bees, penguins and, er, walking campfires. Enjoyably creative boss fights pop up every other stage whether you're playing Hello Kitty World or Balloon Kid. (Speaking of this game's stages, although most are thematically clichéd, a couple are surprisingly unique--with the standouts being the first and its pencil-shaped skyscrapers as well as the fourth that takes place in a wale's bowels.) These cute-as-buttons carts even share the same, Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka-sourced soundtrack.
Anyway, as I said in my earlier review, I tend to prefer Pax Softnica's effort to Character Soft's--mainly due to the GameBoy title's art style--although you really can't go wrong with either. That said, if you decide to play these games via emulation, be sure to go with the colorized, Japan-only version of Balloon Kid, known as Balloon Fight GB. It adds a pretty little map screen and the ability to save after each level to the mix.
See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts