On most consoles, a simple, casual puzzler like Balloon Pop might not seem like a good deal for $20. But, when compared to the usual Wii dreck that goes for a pair of Hamiltons, this unassuming little game feels like a revolution of sorts. It isn't literally revolutionary in any discernable way, but it doesn't suck horribly, and in today's budget Wii lineup that's rare enough to vault it high above the pack.
As "match three colored things" puzzlers go, Balloon Pop mostly gets the job done with a fair amount of content - and zero frills. Bust-a-Move and Tetris Attack both feel like guideposts for the gameplay; lines of balloons descend from the top of the screen and you shift them around one at a time to match the colors. The balloons can be moved in any direction, and the match doesn't necessarily have to be a straight line - just touching three of a like color is enough to make something happen.
Once the match is made, you'll have a couple seconds to add additional like-colored balloons to the chain reaction, or make other matches on the screen to increase your score and clear as much from the frame as possible. Using the A button and motion controls of the Wii Remote to grab and pull a balloon works well the majority of the time, aside from the occasional issue at the higher speed levels. Alternately, you can swap to d-pad/button controls at any time by pressing the minus button, but "grab and pull" doesn't feel quite as intuitive without, well, grabbing and pulling.
Balloon Pop can be a positively sleepy experience, which may turn off those accustomed to other, more hyperactive puzzlers, but the endless story mode picks up after a bit. Thevs CPU battle mode is a short-lived but slightly more exciting affair, while the puzzle mode (in which you have a limited amount of moves to clear the screen) and two-player split-screen option offer additional options to explore once you've tired of the core gameplay.
Compared with prominent puzzlers on other platforms, Balloon Pop might seem a bit outdated, slightly repetitive, and lacking in unique charm. But until the Wii's software library offers better options for the price, it's a decent choice for genre dabblers and those seeking a simple diversion.
Mar 4, 2008