Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Great Gaymathon Review #57: Balloon Kid (GameBoy)


Game: Balloon Kid
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Pax Softnica
Publisher: Nintendo
System: GameBoy
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 clich├ęd, 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

14 comments:

warp said...

I'm adding this to my (rom) pile of shame.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Gonna do it! Finally. It's been on my wish list forever!

warp said...

Just tried out Balloon Fight GB, and I agree -- it's super-cute and really fun. But one question -- when you lose your balloons, you're pretty much SOL, right? I don't see any way to get more, and since I can't fly, I end up getting pushed into the water by the scrolling.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, glad I could spur you to at least give it a try via emulation, warp!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Yes, give it a try, Justin. And, really, if you can, play the colorized Japanese version via emulation -- it really is the best version. Someday, when I get my shiny pink Japanese 3DS LL (LOL), I'm going to buy this version (Balloon Fight GB) via the Japanese eShop. I need it! A boy can dream, right?

Bryan Ochalla said...

warp: Ah, sorry about that! If you lose your balloons, press down on the d-pad (repeatedly) while on the ground to blow up some more. A few presses of the d-pad should allow you to refill both balloons rather quickly!

warp said...

Thanks! They sure don't make that obvious.

Bryan Ochalla said...

You're welcome! And just remember that this game was released way back in the days when most instructions appeared in the game's manual. Anyway, hope you have a blast with Balloon Kid/Balloon Fight GB!

Kaze said...

This is one of my favorite Game Boy games and it holds a special place in my heart! ^^ I remember seeing a tiny blurb about it in Nintendo Power when I was a kid and really wanting to play it! Tthis was the first Game Boy game I ever beat too! (I think I was 9?) I remember feeling so accomplished. lol

Kaze said...

Also, the Japanese art for this from the manual is so adorable compared to the hideous American cover art. lol

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Kaze! Long time, no see :)

Anyway, it's awesome to hear that you, too, have fond memories of this one. I also remember that Nintendo Power blurb about the game, by the way. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's what pushed me to buy the game back in the day. I don't think I beat it back then, though...

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, and as for the Japanese art for this game being better than the American art: I agree to a point, although I don't really think the American art is hideous. That may be nostalgia talking, though :)

Kaze said...

Hello to you too!! Hope you're doing well! :D Haha, ok maybe I was unduly harsh with the hideous comment! The art was engaging enough to get me interested when I was younger I guess!

Bryan Ochalla said...

I am well, Kaze, and I hope you are, too! As for thinking the box art is hideous: Well, you're free to your opinion. Don't change it on my account. I agree, by the way, that Alice is a bit ... odd-looking in this illustration. I like the rest of it, though.