Product: Balloon Buster
Publisher: Blue Ribbon
Compatibility: BBC/Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #46

Every now and then I discover a game which had a really rough time and this is a prime example. By rough I don't mean treated roughly in an Electron User review, although their boob with the Exile review defied belief, but more that the game got a rough deal by never even being reviewed...hence no-one knew of its existence.

Balloon Buster by Blue Ribbon is a commercial release that has a very 'neat' feel to it; the packaging is just as bright and attractive as the game itself, it uses a colourful Mode 2 screen, it is written in pure machine code, it incorporates a whole new idea and it's very enjoyable to play.

You control a happy little clown armed with one juggling ball. Up above are a number of different coloured balloons. The idea is to burst them in a pre-set order by hurling the ball according to the rules: don't hit more than one balloon with the same throw, don't hit a balloon of the wrong colour and don't stand around too long thinking - but don't leave yourself in the position where the next sequential coloured balloon is left 'blocked' by one of the others!

And, um, that's it. Because the game is of a 'puzzly' nature, there's no real call for a prologue or explanation why you need to do what you need to do. Yet the 'puzzle' has been uniquely crossbred with an arcade forum; the action takes place upon a theatre stage, you retain and are awarded (on completion of certain screens) a number of 'lives', you must accurately judge the power with which you throw the ball and you progress up through harder and harder levels.

The time limits on the levels are strict and you can frequently run out of time by bouncing your clown in the wrong direction even only a couple of steps. Frequently when I realised this, I paniced and lobbed the ball much harder than normal! Games which have this type of effect take acquired skill to master...and it's fun to try!

A nice touch is that, when you run out of lives, you are returned to either the level you were playing or the one preceding it without having to play all the screens again from the start. This is done by the use of a 'Continue' and ticking down counter - a feature present on many Spectrum and Amstrad games but one which I think is unique to the Electron and is yet another 'arcady' feature!

Adding a spectacular loading screen, fast execution speed within the game and the addictiveness of the idea makes for one of the better Elk games on the market...yet one I have never seen reviewed before! On disk, it plays like a dream. On tape, the loading screen takes time to load and, although very nice, is rather cumbersome after the third occasion. Of course, it's easy to just take out the line which loads the screen and spin on the tape!

Overall, the sprites are jolly, the layout is tidy and the idea is unique. This game has been unfairly underexposed; go and seek out a copy of it today!