The boss, me, hasn’t specified that I have to conduct my reviews in a specific format i.e. headings, breakdowns, comparisons, wordcount (usually under 800 words as gamers don’t like to read) and what-not. I’m a gamer like you and like to give a good recollection of what a game feels like. So, here’s an attempt with Balloon Flight.
From the ever-prolific publisher RedDeer Games, this first-person title developed by Cyberwave is an unusual one. First of all, let me clarify that this isn’t an FPS game, despite the notion that you’re armed with a crossbow and can pop balloons. It’s effectively a physics-based puzzle game.
That’s mentioned in the Balloon Flight blurb and also my earlier news piece, but it’s best to play these things before making assumptions. My daughter was first to play this while I was preoccupied with something else, and she exited after five minutes. Background check: she’s five years old. One minute for every year.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, as the family-friendly label had me thinking that it would be something she’d enjoy. Now that I’ve played it, I see why she exited out. It’s not bad, but it’s bloody hard, and the physics tests the player. As a non-qualified scientist, they’re very… off.
The goal of Balloon Flight is to make your own airship and sail as far as possible until you fall to your presumed death or time runs out. A large, ghetto series of planks assembled together with fans to the left and right and an engine to the rear is all you have at your disposal. There aren’t any balloons on spawning, but you can launch them on command.
Using ZR, you can fire an unlimited amount of balloons (depending on your patience levels, as the volume will inevitably slow down your Switch). These, by default, are attached to string, and if you target an object correctly and apply the right amount of balloons, they’ll make that item fly a la Pixar’s Up. You shoot with ZL to control the descent, and they’ll pop. Easy, right?
You do have a few items to experiment with, but it’s the airship that you need to levitate and can make traction with. Balancing out the wood with balloons ensures it gains enough height, and then slapping the engine will propel you forward. From here, the countdown starts, as does the tracker for your progress.
As it’s a physics game, moving to the left and right will turn you, hitting a fan will strafe, and the front and back with affect your pitch. Once you launch into the air, it’s not all… plain sailing… hahaha. Ahem. You’ll have to dodge the rain, moving objects, and windmills, but more importantly, apply everything you know about science – notably physics. Half the challenge in Balloon Flight is taking off; the next bit is staying in the air.
I’d declare that Balloon Flight is more of a sandbox than anything. A bit like a ‘skit’ in Minecraft, or a fun experiment as seen in Fireworks Mania, this isn’t the kind of game you’ll play for long periods. However, it’s one you’re likely to return to and beat your score (distance travelled) and unlock new balloons and a special weapon.
The further you travel, the more likely you’ll be able to unlock coloured balloons, lava-based ones, or if you shoot enough balloons, cupcake themed ones. Yep. It’s all good fun, but how you get on with it depends on your patience levels. For starters, the airship has a hole in the centre. When playing from a first-person perspective, it’s easy to forget what you’re doing and fall through. More common is getting your balloon placement wrong and sliding off, but a little too fast for its own good.
One of the most frustrating elements is the number of hazards on the way. It’s already a challenge to get airborne, as stated. However, when you finally get to grips with it, you have to navigate around these obstacles as if steering the Titanic in slow motion. Worst of all, when the timer runs out, it’s always a few seconds away from the collectable. Goddammit!
Still, I like Balloon Flight. It’s pretty unique, and I haven’t played anything close to it. It would be fun if there were a multiplayer option where you race someone else and pop their balloons. Yes, you will come back to better your scores and unlock everything if you’re the type, but playtime is likely to be sporadic due to the kind of gameplay and whether you can get on with it. I liked it, but I think it would play better with a mouse or gyro aiming.