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Hindsight : Balloon Kid

Balloon Kid has never had an easy ride from critics. The Gameboy game, a sequel to the NES game Balloon Fight, was damned with faint praise in nearly every review it received.

It was even released on the 3DS eShop recently, where it still got a pummeling from sites like NintendoLife in their 4/10 Balloon Kid review. Yuk.

The critics are right in everything they say. Balloon Kid is too easy, too repetitive and offers little more, in truth, than the original Balloon Fight did. Yet, in another example of why scoring games really is a terrible idea, the game is still enjoyable, addictive and is played by many fans today, more than 23 years after its launch.

From the moment you start the single player mode, watch your brother float away over the monochromatic horizon as the wonderful music plays and then set off in pursuit of him, chasing the balloons he leaves behind, you become utterly enchanted by this beautiful, relaxing videogame.

Balloon Kid Gameboy

Balloon Kid allows you to release your balloons, and run and jump without them, letting you reach otherwise inaccessible areas. It is in using this trick to find secret areas and bonus stages that the real mastery of Balloon Kid can be found. You can always pump up a balloon or two once you need to get back underway, causing moments of panic as the screen scrolls relentlessly.

From the belly of a whale to snowy landscapes, there are some interesting levels to beat, although it really won’t take you long, especially if you use the restore functionality from the Virtual Console 3DS version. There is also a throwaway 2 player mode and the Balloon Trip mode from Balloon Fight, which is as tough as ever.

The real joy in Balloon Kid is in the playing, as it has an innate pull that keeps you coming back, play after play, year after year. The mix of the tricky to master gameplay, tight, interesting level design, lovely Gameboy visuals and music of the highest order makes the game stand the test of time in a way that today’s blockbuster space marine shooters could never hope to emulate.

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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.

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