Thursday, February 18, 2010

Balloon In A Wasteland

So here it is, the start of a new era in Big Mean Flash Gamer history. Remember the date, 17th of February 2010: the day I started reviewing games I regularly enjoy. Never fear, every second week will see me spitting vitriol as per usual, but in an attempt to keep things interesting (and for the sake of my own sanity) I've decided that it's time to relax a little and enjoy my online gaming again. And where better to start than Armor Games' delightful shoot-'em-up adventure Balloon In A Wasteland?

Rarely does a title fully convey the true nature of a game like Balloon In A Wasteland. The plot is simple and to the point - you play a figure who looks remarkably like Mr Game and Watch wearing a snazzy hat. While floating along on the crisp evening breeze in your hot air balloon you hit a spot of bother and crash land on a desolate grey landscape. Now you must repair the balloon and fly away as quickly as possible.

And when I do mean quickly, because the wasteland is populated by strange gelatinous creatures that intend to very slowly eat you. Fortunately you have two things they don't: a gun and an unlimited supply of ammo. And since Mr Game and Watch has no concept of right and wrong I wouldn't be surprised if this ammo was intended for Marxist guerrillas hiding in the mountains beyond the wasteland.

From this simple seed (fix balloon, kill monsters) grows a remarkably satisfying game. With every creature you kill you are rewarded with cold, hard cash, which you can use to buy upgrades from the many travelling salesmen who pass through (why none of these men don't just give you a lift to the nearest town is unclear, but chances are rescuing the only customer in a hundred mile radius would be bad for business.

Items like the fort will come in very handy because, eventually, the number of beasties onscreen during a wave reaches ridiculous levels. Fortunately you can't be hurt while in the fort and you also get a chance to sleep, regaining some much needed stamina. The bad news is you can't shoot from the fort, but once you've earned enough cash to buy some turrets they can fight back against the creatures while you get some shut-eye.

Of course, the waves just become more ferocious as the creatures get bigger and tougher, which is why my advice to anyone who plays this game is to save up your money for one of the greatest inventions in history - the automatic assault rifle!

Mow down wave after wave of jelly monsters as they try to navigate your fiendishly placed traps! Curse under your breath as your clip empties in two seconds and you have to wait at least three for it to reload! Revel in how easy the game becomes as soon as you've got your mitts on this glorious weapon!

Indeed, if there was one fault with Balloon In A Wasteland, it's that the game becomes far too easy once you have the more effective weapons. There’s an achievement for repairing your balloon in four days, but the truth is you could easily do it in two. Once you've got a fort and a decent gun, as well as a few mines and barbed wire fences to slow down the baddies, you're sitting pretty for as long as you want to blast away at the monsters.

This is where boredom can set in, so eventually you'll complete your repairs and float off to new adventures. And hey, it couldn't happen to a nicer silhouette. While Balloon In A Wasteland can get repetitive, there's no denying it's a fun game. The graphics excellent and the animation is fluid, while the controls are simple and the game mechanics solid. I do wish the bloody high score table that doesn't seem to work properly for me wasn't there and the achievements didn't reset every time you loaded the game, but they're just niggling complaints. Overall Balloon In A Wasteland is a great way to kill fifteen minutes and comes highly recommended.

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