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Balloon Express

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Menara Games
Developer: Menara Games
Media: Download/0
Players: 1
Genre: Arcade/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Donít you love downloadable games? Donít have to go to the store, stand in line, hope that you like the game, and get mad if you donít. Menara Games has come up with another quality internet game, Balloon Express. After downloading the game online, installing it and playing it for that first session, I was struck by the very clean feel to the animation in the game. It was not highly realistic, it was more the type of animation that you would see during Saturday morning cartoons and I think that really adds nice character to the game. Menara Games takes you to various locales all over the world, to the fields of Ireland with itís villages and ruined castles, to the hot and sandy desert of Egypt with its nomadic people. There are also tidbits of information that the game will tell you about the different countries so if you are not careful, you might learn some geography along the way.

Balloon Express has a very generic and simple soundtrack so it doesnít really add anything to the game. You have simple sound effects and a pleasant music track. During the game, I really didnít hear it much which is good thing because you better be concentrating on your objectives if you want to win!


Gameplay:

Balloon Express is the second game I have played lately that seems to be a beginning level SIM crossed with an arcade game. You have two modes of gameplay in Balloon Express. The first is ďStory ModeĒ where you play Amelia, who starts a balloon delivery business to help save the family farm. You start off in the countryside of Ireland and you have to deliver three different types of packages to the villagers. The faster you deliver these packages, the higher the points you get for that delivery and the more bonus smileys you can earn. You can use the bonuses or smileys to get a helping hand. A question mark will reveal the next houseís request without having to wait for it. A star bonus will make a house you click on a free delivery type, so you can deliver anything there to get the points. And then thereís the blue arrow which is a free delivery. Each one of these bonuses cost a different amount of smileys. You do have to be careful and not deliver the wrong type of package to the delivery point or you will lose points. You have a certain amount of time to make all of your deliveries and to make a profit. If you do, you move on to the next level. You can even strive for Expert Mode by making more profits. There is a Tutorial Mode at the beginning of Story Mode to instruct you and let you get the hang of making the deliveries. After certain levels, you will be able to upgrade your balloon and other supplies to help you in your business.

The next mode is called the ďPuzzle ModeĒ. This mode is about matching three deliveries to each house location. You move each item between the three houses attempting to make the match of three. If you donít match three items together within a certain amount of moves, you lose. If you happen to make more than one match in a row, you do get extra combination points. After you get enough points, you unlock a world key, which will unlock the next country. After it is unlocked, you can go master your skills on each level at any time. I didnít enjoy this mode as much as the Story Mode. It just didnít seem as challenging and got to be a little monotonous after a while.


Difficulty:

Balloon Express increases the speed to raise the difficulty in Story Mode. The farther you go in the game, the more deliveries you have to make in a shorter amount of time to make a profit and move on to the next level. Also, they increase the amount of houses at one time that are expecting deliveries, so there is more chance to miss a delivery and more of a chance to deliver the wrong package to the house and lose points. You do have your help, which are the question mark, the star, and the blue arrow which we discussed before. Be careful with these, as you can only rely on them for so long before they run out.

In Puzzle Mode, the difficulty will increase by having more houses where a combination of three has to be made and more types of packages that can be swapped. You also have to make these deliveries in a faster time as well.


Game Mechanics:

Menara Games mentions on their website that Balloon Express is a one-handed mouse controlled game which is very true. But, while playing the game, a hint came up that you can use your scroll button on your mouse to switch between package types as well as using the 1, 2, and 3 keys on your keyboard. I had been clicking on the different types and that was really slowing me down. I found that using the scroll button on my mouse was the most helpful. Also during the game, your balloon will be flying or floating upward and you can get in front of the houses you need to deliver too. If your delivery house scrolls out of view, you lose the points for that house. One trick is that when I have gotten too far up on my screen, I click on the ground towards the bottom which will give more time to catch those deliveries when they pop up.

Balloon Express was an extremely enjoyable game. I liked the Story Mode better than the Puzzle Mode, but thatís because I tend to like adventure games more than puzzle games. I havenít completed the story yet, as I still have a few countries to unlock, but I look forward to seeing if Amelia saves the family farm and what countries her new business takes her to.


-Wickserv, GameVortex Communications
AKA Eric Wickwire

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/2000/Xp, 800mhz Processor or higher, 128mb RAM, 32Mb Video Memory, DirectX 7
 

Test System:



Windows XP, 3.00 GHz Pentium 4 Processor, Integrated 5.1 channel audio 1 GHz of RAM, Intelģ Graphics Media Accelerator 9002

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