Tag Archives: Balloon Fight

REVIEW: Fat Dragons

There’s generally two things you can expect whenever you play a game by developer Nostatic Software1; some very charming pixel work, and that nagging feeling that you may not be having all that much fun playing that game. Whether that’s a fair assessment or not, Fat Dragons ($1.00) is exactly this. To be clear, this time it’s a Joust-like arcade title rather than a puzzler where you make educated guesses on what you should be doing next, but let’s just get this out of the way now: Fat Dragons is the Nintendo classic Balloon Fight, nothing more, and probably a little less.

Like those games, Fat Dragons has you not-so-lithely (the price of being an overweight dragon, I guess) coasting through the air, stripping the wings of your fellow peers and knocking them off the board once they’ve been grounded. Having the high ground is key, as that is the only way to effectively attack and avoid being de-winged yourself. Enemies spawn in wave format, and you’re given three hits / lives to hold out as long as you can. Points are naturally awarded for knockouts, and for completing the wave quickly.

There’s four stages to choose from in total, some of which include some slight interactivity, like an active volcano (the lava balls that shoot out of it can hurt you), or a storm where you’re under constant threat from lightning strikes. Every three waves you survive, the platforms within the stage shift around, creating a semi-fresh battlefield. To its credit, the game controls eerily-similar2 to how I remember Balloon Fight, so much so that I felt that particular wave of nostalgia washing over me as I played. Unfortunately, the simple arcade gameplay hasn’t aged as well in comparison.

Fat Dragons - Screen

For one, Fat Dragons is single-player only, cutting out a huge chunk of the reason that games like Balloon Fight and Joust continue to entertain even decades after their original release— the ‘friendly’ competition that comes from screwing over your friends or working together. The AI in the game is somewhat capable, but you won’t really meet any challenge unless you’re being pursued by three or more dragons at once. Even then, it all feels very same-y. Without some additional ‘hook’ or mode of play, repetition sets in.

That’s not to say there isn’t some fun involved, it’s just… dated. There’s no real payoff, either. The next level in line is unlocked after surviving a set number of waves in the previous stage, but with no further incentive to continue play after that, you can witness everything Fat Dragons has to offer within a half-hour at most. Worth a look if you’ve somehow missed out on the old classics to this point, but otherwise, there’s nothing new here.3

  1. Known primarily for the ‘Quiet’ series, cute but busywork puzzle games. More info on the catalog here
  2.  Right down to the ‘weighty’ feel of lift-off and acceleration, and the bulky sense of not being able to stop or turn as easily. Kudos to the developer for nailing that. 
  3. This review is also featured at Indiepitome. 

REVIEW: Ninja Crash

I knew Ninja Crash (240 MSP) was on the horizon, it having been mostly complete the last time I saw it, but the Dream.Build.Play winner (it took home the third place prize) was a nice surprise this week nonetheless. The game dons its own disguise and adds a few variations to the arcade format of popping the balloons of one’s peers, but it’s really an update of the NES classic Balloon Fight, with a graphical face-lift and the insertion of ninjas (and their lanterns) into the starting lineup.

This isn’t a bad thing. Admitting to my age (and a partial mullet, not sure why my parents thought that was a good idea, even for the 80s), I spent an unhealthy amount of hours on the original. Linking the video for the purposes of this review brought that youthful exuberance (but not the hair, thankfully) back full-force, which was a large part of my excitement to try Team Devil‘s version.

The idea is easy enough; you need height. Each single-screen (exiting the side whisks you to the other end, and vice versa) stage asks you to dispatch a number of floating ninja baddies that have taken your master’s cheese (and it must be some good-ass cheese; it has a halo, for crying out loud). Taking the high ground, both moral and literal, is key, as it’s a pop or be popped scenario. And these scheming stealthy suckers are not slouches but stalwarts, that provide a good balance and challenge on the default setting of normal, and approach something close to demigods on the higher settings.

Similar to Balloon Fight, both you and the enemies have an out if you find yourself without a lantern. If you happen to be near a roof or platform, and don’t fall from a ridiculous height, you can move around and attempt to inflate a single lantern in order to continue the fight. You’re completely vulnerable during this time, but it adds an extra dimension and chance to the game, especially when facing higher enemy counts and on a four-life budget (shared between two players in co-op).

It definitely helps that the levels are logically laid out to allow for offensive and defensive-minded players, with stage-specific hazards (usually of the spiked and pointy variety, though the bottom and top of an arena can claim just as many lives if you’re not careful) and powerups, like shielded lanterns, or blades that can be thrown to pop others’ lanterns or outright eliminate foes, across eight lusciously-illustrated arenas and an extended (some may say annoying) boss fight for the finale.

It’s a solid and fun game at $3, though it loses some points if you’re going to be playing it solo. No matter the difficulty, the campaign levels hold up in single-player even when the game feels like it was built with co-op in mind. Sans friends, you’ll also miss out the other half of Ninja Crash, the local multiplayer battles (up to four) in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch flavoring, which is your best bet at extending that three dollars once you’ve conquered the campaign levels (about 45 minutes).

Consider it food for thought. Ninja Crash comes recommended either way, a pretty dose of nostalgia and the perfect arcade diversion to put some of your spare time into.