Or, “I really, really, really, wish I could fly.” This Kongregate game by the chap behind the sardonic Upgrade Complete has eschewed meta-commentary in favour of this charming survival horror/tower defence hybrid vignette. It brings the mind the kind of script treatment I imagine regularly lands on movie executives’ desks. “A lone hot air balloonist crash lands in a mysterious desert. As night falls, sinister beasts come for him. Can he fix his balloon before the creatures devour him? Or will exhausation and hunger take him before he can find his way back to a place… called home? BALLOON IN A WASTELAND, coming to theatres Fall 2012.”
It’s a formula you’re probably quite familiar – a Flash-bashed 2D shooter, in which you’re rewarded with unlocks for hacking away at it for long enough. The difference is the pacing and purpose of it. An unlock isn’t just a better thing, but a definite choice between a better weapon, a defensive turret or health recharge stations. Similarly, in the downtime between each wave of tarry, murderous horrors, you’re torn between continuing fixing the balloon (for that’s how to win the game), running off to restore your health so you can definitely survive the next round, building one of the structures you’ve just bought, laying traps, or having a powernap to restore your stamina, which imposes major damage penalties as it runs down. It is a game in which you have to shoot all the monsters, but it is also a game about choice.
It’s also a game you’re very unlikely to fail at, but that doesn’t make it any less pleasing. Though my one really serious gripe is why he bothers fixing the balloon and building and buying things, when the shopkeepers turn up in vans? Just cadge a lift, you suicidal, balloon-obsessed fool.
Oh, and when it says ‘push’ it means press your down button. Took me a little while to suss that.
Thanks to Jack aka TheBlackBandit for the tip.