Every Wednesday we’re going to have a review of an arcade game on the site. The age of the game doesn’t matter, anything goes as long as it is arcade related. So check in often to see reviews to games you love, may remember playing or that you have never heard of.
This week we’re starting off with Balloon and Balloon (2003) by Apple Industries, which probably fits into the category of games that you’ve never heard of.
Balloon and Balloon certainly is not a title that depicts any glorious gaming battles or something that will entice hardcore gamers around the globe to flock to the arcade. In fact at first glance it appears to have nothing to do with balloons either. Yet BnB is a style of game that many gamers will enjoy, despite the fact that finding this title at your local arcade will prove to be very difficult.
Simply put BnB is a Bomberman-style clone, with some gameplay enhancements and Korean cartoon characters. For the uninitiated, they are anime style characters who are midgets (or little people for those politically correct people out there) with big heads. There are about 10 characters to choose from, each one with different stats that can affect gameplay. They are mostly forgettable characters with forgettable names, but the cuteness factor is enough to get the girlfriend or the kids in on the game while enjoying some great classic gameplay at the same time. Out of the many characters available, the blue character (again, the names are forgettable) is the most balanced and is the best way for someone new to the game to become familiar with the action without going through a frustrating experience . For those who have not had a chance to play Bomberman in the past, this seems to be a good substitute. In BnB you use water balloons instead of bombs, which behave in the same way as the bombs in Bomberman (exploding in a certain range both horizontally and vertically assuming nothing blocks the path of the blast) but you trap your enemies in a bubble of water as opposed to simply blowing them up, much like the classic game Bubble Bobble. After an enemy is trapped, you have a short time to walk over them which will both pop the bubble and finish the enemy off. If the enemy had picked up some special items, then you will be able to pick those up after ‘bursting their bubble’ as well.
There are about 7 different types of terrain you play on, each with about 4-5 different submaps within those and a boss at the end of each series of levels within a world. Each level is completed when you take out all of the enemies on the board. Each level has a different layout as far as the maze of blocks is concerned and they may also contain certain hazards, such as waves of water which will quickly fill up a street, entrapping you in a bubble if you’re not careful. There are also tornadoes, conveyor belts, flames, and then your enemies. Special items are hidden underneath destroyable blocks, which you pick up along the way as you must destroy blocks to progress through the level. Sometimes you can pick up an animal, such as a turtle or owl to ride on, which gives you one extra hit before being trapped in a bubble. Some animals give you extra speed while other slow you down. If you gain the flying saucer you can even fly over certain blocks which would be impassible otherwise but it won’t allow you to pick up any items.
One game variation is Battle Mode, which pits you and a friend against each other with no enemies to fight. It can be fun if you’re looking for some competition, but if you tire of just playing against one person you also can play co-op. The advantage you gain with co-op is that your friend can save you from losing a life if they pop a bubble you get trapped in. They have to do it quickly however, as the bubbles burst by themselves after about 5 seconds. Both co-op and battle modes are a lot of fun but they would have been better if they had made this a 4 player game.
There is no real storyline to BnB. They try to tell a simple one only with pictures and to be honest, it doesn’t make any sense. Some Captain Hook like figure steals some crystal from some unnamed location and you need to get it back. If you complete this long and arduous task, there will be peace in the land once again and for no reason other than the purple crystal is back at the unnamed location once again. Maybe it is their prize museum piece or their wonder drug, but you will never know because the game never explains it. Play this one for it’s gameplay and not for it’s storyline. The manual and flyers are also loaded with Engrish which is entertaining enough in itself.
The graphics are quite colorful and are certainly appealing to a younger audience but they will not show the strength of the arcades in any way. It is strange to see any 2D game in the arcade with a copyright of 2003, but at the same time it is a welcome sight in a world obsessed with 3D games. There is no slowdown to speak of in the game, but there aren’t many special effects to talk about nor many sprites wandering around at the same time either. It will not blow anyones socks off but it will not turn anyone away in disgust either.
The music is OK, it gets a little on the Disney side many times, but it’s not too annoying. Other sounds are fairly generic for the game so it is nothing to write home about.
Unknown. There are no pictures that can be found on an authentic BnB cabinet. It appears that it has mostly spread around as a conversion kit for JAMMA arcade cabs. I own the kit, with the board, overlays and marquee. The board is impressively small compared to many other JAMMA boards of yesteryear. The marquee is nice and colorful with it’s cartoon artwork.
Overall, it’s a fun and addicting game, no powerhouse in the graphics department but it would be a great addition to an arcade or a personal collection, especially for Bomberman fans that want something a little different for their collection. Check out the game flyers below to get a good idea of the Engrish or to check out an overview of the game.