Balloon Bounce

Last week I meant to talk about some of the newer games at Pogo, but got sidetracked and somehow wrote an entire column about one game only – Risk. This week I plan to talk about a couple of others; let's hope I manage it.

One of the newest games at the site is called Balloon Bounce, a completely innocent sounding game with a misleading name. I call it Balloon Versus Alien Death Match 2010 but I might be a bit of a drama queen. There are four levels to each game, each featuring a different kind of alien. One type, the ghost, will be quite familiar to anyone who has played Super Mario games. This alien appears and disappears, which is quite annoying if you want to do something radical like win the game. There are also speedy aliens, which are the easiest for me to defeat and aliens that explode into a shower of pins when vanquished. This is problematic as the only weapon the game has is balloons, which tend to not fair all that well against pins. The final type of alien is the most annoying; a type that comes in two halves. When they meet each other they make a zapping noise and a balloon bursts. This is a problem because each level only has so many balloons, depending on the difficulty chosen. If I lose this game it's invariably during the zapping aliens turn.

I've just realized that I digressed and didn't explain how to play or win the game. Allow me to correct that. You start the game with the ability to create x number of balloons, depending on the difficulty level. The harder the game the fewer balloons. The balloons come in different shapes and you start with specific shapes and unlock new shapes as you level up. Some of the beginning shapes include a flower and hot air balloon shaped. Other shapes include a bunny with long ears and a dog, which makes an interesting area between its head and back. These appendages are important because you win the game by trapping the aliens and making them bounce enough times to finally vanish. If you can trap them between the bunny's ears they bounce quickly and you have a pretty good chance of defeating them.

Any small space, like between the rabbit's ears, is good because the aliens have the ability to regenerate and if you aren't careful they can go from almost dead to completely restored. That's one advantage the ghosts have; they periodically turn ghosty and can't be hurt, which gives them the ability to heal and start annoying you again. Two more caveats; every time an alien is defeated a balloon used to defeat it explodes, which is a huge pain if you've got several guys trapped by one balloon, and if a balloon touches an alien while you're inflating said balloon it pops. You can drag the balloon while inflating to avoid aliens, which may save your sanity, and of course you can always let go and your balloon will stop increasing in size. I like to start the game off with a very large balloon, which helps me wall off half the playing field; especially useful when I'm trying to get rid of the awful zappy face aliens.

So how do you win this thing? It's not by clearing all the aliens, which is frustrating when you've just practically had an aneurysm trying to defeat your least favorite type, only to have more pop up on the screen. You win by hitting a point goal. Helping/hindering with this is a bonus option that pops up while you're playing. For instance if you can create a 5x balloon in n number of seconds you get x number of points. Or if you create 12 giant balloons, which might be tempting but you only have 14 balloons left and not enough space to make them all giant… In that case if you give in to temptation and go for the bonus points you're bound to lose the game. But at other times you only need a few points to win and can do so by randomly blowing up balloons, so keep an eye on your points meter.

A few more points:

Color changes – as the aliens take damage they change color, going from blue-green to green, mustard yellow, then red, then super angry red, then exploding. As they heal this color process reverses, so try to trap them again if they are going the wrong way on the color spectrum.

New balloons – for every alien you zap you get three more balloons. This can mean the difference between winning and losing when you're down to just a few.

Power ups – there are three power ups in the game. One is a time bomb, which you can set anywhere on the screen and it will explode in five seconds, taking out both aliens and balloons. Another is a slow motion option, which slows everything down for ten seconds. If I were smart I might combine this with the time bomb, to help my bomb maximize its destruction, but this is the first time that occurred to me. I'll have to give it a try. Finally there is the one that I find most useful; lead, which turns all of your balloons into lead balloons. They fall from wherever they are on the screen, crushing everything in their path. If you have a lot of dudes and a lot of balloons you can knock a lot of them out and vamp up your unused balloon count at the same time.

You can access the game here: http://www.pogo.com/games/balloonbounce.

PS I obviously talk way too much as I have once again spent an entire column on one game. I guess that's because it's so much fun.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Brooke Davis, who says, "Cannot wait for One Tree Hill season premiere. Last season's finale was off the chain. Is Quinn still alive? Maybe." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.