Monday, November 05, 2007

Virtual Console Review - Balloon Fight

Balloon Fight - Nintendo for NES - 5/10

For most of my reviews, I try to remain fair-minded about the scores and my overall opinions. As a general rule, I won't give a score lower than a five out of ten as long as the game demonstrates some basic competence. It may not work for me, or it may just fail to grab my interest, but if the controls work and nothing is clearly broken, then a five should be fair. Anything lower than that is a wreck. "And now people just get uglier/and I have no sense of time" - something along those lines.

From my point of view, I don't consider anything lower than a six to be worth playing. A six is just barely passing, just squeaking on by, like those stoner kids from high school who managed to graduate with nothing higher than a D+. Once you're down into that territory, the D's and F's, it's very touchy-feely, and highly dependent upon circumstances.

Now here's the reason I bring all this up. I pulled out Nintendo's early NES game Balloon Fight with the intention of tearing it to pieces. For me, it's just awful. A supreme waste of precious hours and dollars. I wouldn't be caught dead with it. But then I observed parents and their children crowd around the game stores in my area this past week. Usually this was when I was sneaking in some more Super Mario Galaxy time while waiting for the hourly bus.

I noticed that Mario was proving to be a big draw for the kids, and the poor hapless parents (How can there still be parents in this country who know nothing about video games? This mystery baffles me.) were trying to find something suitable and fun. They were trying, in other words, to avoid the brutality of torture porn like Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto. This is proving a bit of a challenge, since so much of the games industry is catering to adult nerds.

This leaves me feeling a bit more generous. The Nintendo Wii is proving a great success with families of all ages, and I'm sure Mom and Dad are looking for a few games to keep the kids happy, without scarring them emotionally. The less brutality and fascism, the better.

All of which brings me to this early Nintendo game called Balloon Fight. Here's how it works, for all the uninformed parents out there. You control a man who floats around with several balloons. His job is to pop the balloons of his rivals, who all look vaguely like ducks. I can't tell if they're really ducks, or people dressed in really bad duck costumes. But you still have to pop them out of the game, regardless.

The way you do this is by floating higher and higher, by hitting the button - there's only one button in this game - and dropping on the other players. They get knocked out, and you capture the eggs left behind, before they rehatch and return to the game. Once you've knocked out all the ducks, you win the round, and move on to the next board.

It's all sort of colorful and cute, and it's easy to see what's happening. There's a bit of skill required, but nothing that's too difficult. In fact, Mom and Dad, I'll bet even you could fare pretty well. Two people can play at the same time, so perhaps it's time to show Lisa Jr. who's boss. You won't get this chance when they're teenagers, so take advantage of it.

In closing, if this describes you and your family, then I'd recommend Balloon Fight. There's no reason you have to pay $50 on a new game, when all these perfectly good games are just lying around for pennies on the dollar. They were good enough in my day, dagnabbit, and that's what made me the rugged success I am today. We also had to walk uphill to school everyday, in three feet of snow. Builds character. Be sure to use this when needed.

-------------------------(dramatic pause)

Okay, now here's the Balloon Fight review for the rest of us. The gamers, the grownups, the Gen X'ers. The Adults Who Should Know Better.

Balloon Fight sucks.

And what games suck the most? The ones that shamelessly rip off classic videogames, without even trying to be original. Hey, Nintendo! We kids from the '80s already played this game to death! It's called Joust! We played it in the arcades, on Atari 2600, 5200, and 7800, on the home computers, on the Lynx....where else have I seen that game? Oh, yes - the NES! Joust was released on the Nintendo, you jerks!

I'll take any version of Joust over Balloon Fight. Even the Atari 2600 version, which was surprisingly solid. Why should I settle for the weird, kiddie version? Did it really need to be dumbed down? Is that way the player-character wears a crash helmet? Because he might hurt his head on the balloons? Gee, why not include those arm-floaters in case he falls into the water?

Ugh. As I've often complained, most of the early NES titles were bloody awful. At least, to its credit, Balloon Fight is playable. It's competent, barely. Thank heavens Nintendo was too late to cash in on the Pac-Man craze. They'd have handed us a maze game where everybody gives out hugs.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

Daniel, call me crazy, but i think Ballon Fight's concept could be used to make a nice party game, maybe to play against two or three friends at once.

Oh, check this out! I don't think i'm the only one who finds those games totally unapealing. If I had money i'd certainly think twice about buying a ps3 after seeing that video.