Balloon Fight, which was developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 and is now available for the Wii's Virtual Console, is hardly more than a rip-off of Midway's classic jousting game. However, the dragons and lances are replaced by men with helium balloons strapped to their backs. At least Nintendo picked a good game to copy. Like Joust, Balloon Fight can still dish out bursts of fun despite the fact that many aspects of the game are absolutely ancient by today's standards.
In Balloon Fight, you control a man that can hover and fly thanks to the two balloons that are strapped to his back. Tapping the button makes your balloon man gain altitude, while letting up on the button causes him to descend. Occupying each level are other balloon men, and the general object of the game is to defeat them by popping the balloons on their backs, which is accomplished by pouncing on them with your feet. After you pop their balloons, they'll fall into the water below or land safely on a treetop. If they land safely, they'll try to inflate new balloons to rejoin the fight, but you can send them away for good with a final kick before they take off again. Of course, they're trying to pop your balloons too. You also have to watch out for balls of lightning that occasionally shoot out from clouds, as well as a hungry fish that will sometimes jump out of the water below and try to eat you.
The simplistic jungle backgrounds, tiny characters, and barely-there audio were behind the times when the game was originally released for the NES back in 1986. Each level consists of one screen with a starry background, a few treetops, and a couple of clouds that occasionally spit out balls of lightning. Apart from the balloon men flapping their arms and the accompanying flapping sound effect, there's not much to see or hear except for those infrequent times when a cloud flashes yellow or a fish leaps out of the water. And yet, while the graphics and audio are certainly sparse, there's nothing especially bad about them. The balloon men are clearly recognizable against the black-sky backdrops, while the treetops and water are colorful, as well as sufficiently detailed. Those little balloon people also look so cute flapping their arms and bouncing off one another. You won't be impressed by Balloon Fight's presentation, but it may just charm a smile onto your face.
Popping opponents' balloons and punting them off treetops is by no means complicated, but you'd be surprised at just how much fun you'll have doing it. The CPU's intelligence ratchets up quickly too, which means you're always on your toes and games usually don't last more than a couple of minutes. As such, you never really have a chance to burn out from repetition. If you have a second controller and can take advantage of the two player cooperative mode, you'll enjoy those short bursts even more. You and your friend can work together to stay alive or you can pop each other's balloons and compete to see who gets the highest score. Bumping the other player into a pack of CPU balloonists is very satisfying.
You won't regret spending 500 Wii points ($5) to download the NES version of Balloon Fight to your Wii. It's good for those occasions when you only have a little bit of time to kill and need a quick jolt of fun.