In 1991 Nintendo released Balloon Kid for the Game Boy in Europe, a flying-platformer hybrid, and sequel to the Nintendo Entertainment System classic Balloon Fight. The game’s development involved names like Gunpai Yokoi and Yoshio Sakamoto, key figures in Nintendo history.
I bought a loose cartridge of Balloon Kid for £5.
You play as Alice, big sister to Jim. Alice and Jim live in the city of Pencilvania, enjoying nothing more than playing with balloons. One day Jim decided to tie a bunch of balloons together to create a ‘balloon rainbow’. This seems like a great idea at the time but a gust of wind carries the balloons off and Jim along with them! It’s up to Alice to save her brother. So tying a pair of balloons to herself Alice takes to the skies after Jim.
From here you have to guide Alice as the screen scrolls from right to left, taking care to not fly into any dangers as it does. Controlling Alice can be tricky. Since she’s flying with the help of her balloons she has to build up momentum to move any great distance. To do this you have to press the A button to get Alice to flap her arms, doing this will cause her rise off the ground, gaining more height and speed the more you do, all the while gravity will be pulling her back down to earth, so you’ll have to maintain the right level of momentum without going overboard and ending up slamming into an enemy or hazard.
Some people might find the sensitive controls a little awkward but that’s the whole game, contending with the troubles of balloon flying while avoiding danger, without that you wouldn’t really have a game. There are stray balloons to collect for points to get more continues, as well giant Game Boys that will transport you to a bonus area for a chance to get even more points. I said that Balloon Kid was a flying-platformer hybrid and the platforming comes in when Alice has no balloons, either because they were popped or she released them by pressing the B button.
At any time Alice can choose to let her Balloons go. When she does she’ll fall from the sky, and as long as she lands on solid ground and not something hazardous (like spikes or water) she’ll be able to walk and jump just like any other platform game. Going by ground is useful in some parts of the levels as well as necessary in others. When you want to take to the sky again Alice can inflate new balloons by pressing down on the D-pad repeatedly. This simple mechanic of flying, releasing balloons to go on foot, then inflating new balloons adds some great variation to the game. There are also bosses to fight by jumping on their heads, another nice way to vary the gameplay.
The fun doesn’t stop there though, with a mode called balloon trip you can play a hazard filled flight over the ocean, lasting as long as you can for a high score. There’s also a verses mode for two players if you happen to have two copies of the game, two Game Boys and a link cable.
Graphics are nice but not spectacular, we are dealing with an early Game Boy game after all. That being said, the character sprites for Alice and Jim look nice and clear, and the animations for Alice as she inflate balloons or comes into contact with enemies and dangers are nicely done.
Music is very good, with some catchy tunes that got stuck in my head for a couple of days, especially the theme that plays when you beat a boss.
Ballon Kid is a very fun game, simple, straightforward but fun none the less. I give it a 7.7 out of 10. I might have given it even more had I a second copy of the game to play the versus mode, but unfortunately not.
On a side note, Balloon kid was never released in Japan for the Game Boy, but a Japan exclusive remake was made for the Game Boy Color called Balloon Fight GB.
For Stage – Select, this has been Ed, signing off.