Let Down: Balloon In A Wasteland

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.

Where? Here!

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.


  1. GriddleOctopus says:

    Standard tower defence – apart from the necessity to catch 20 winks on the top of your enormo-tower, which is great. Nice little achievements system as well, and the weapons are such fun to use, I just ignored the balloon and concentrated on upgrading them.

  2. Dubbill says:

    Nice Quantum Leap reference.

  3. Mr_Day says:

    Is it a tower defence game? What are you defending against? the monsters don’t hurt the balloon or the fort, so once you have somewhere to cower when the monsters are mooching about the game becomes no more difficult than those old game and watch systems where you had to move your character between two points whilst avoiding falling pancakes. Or something.

    Conentrating on taking out the monsters proved to be more fun, but I felt a bit of a fool since it isn’t really needed. Have the monsters hurt the balloon as they go past, and swap the positions of the fort and balloon so you are actually abandoning the balloon if you hide, and I would probably enjoy it more.

    But then, it wasn’t a re-imagining of Air Buccaneers* as a zombie survivor, which is actually what I was thinking of as I read the piece, so I guess I am just horribly diapointed and hurting those I love.

    * the land in AB was evil, remember. Imagine having to survive there whilst you rebuild the balloon, with the zombies dropping the materials necessary but also tearing the balloon apart as you cower in a nearby tree.

  4. Brumisator says:

    I don’t really get it, this game is too easy…
    You basically can’t be harmed if you build a fort and go to sleep there.

  5. Senethro says:

    1st attempt: seconds into day 4.
    2nd attempt: Day 2: 4:53pm.
    3rd attempt: Day 2 08:11am

    Damn, gonna give it one more shot.

  6. Sagan says:

    I really liked this; glad to see that jmtb02 is making more complete games now. Except the machine gun is overpowered, and after that the game became boring.

    But this has got a nice mechanic in that the shooting doesn’t require proper aiming and that enemies die pretty quickly. Other survival games often get this wrong. Shooting hordes of zombies shouldn’t require attention. At least in a 2D flash game. And it’s a great idea that you are constantly under stress, and that you actually need to build up the structures you bought. Other survival games also get this wrong, when you can spend way too much time in the menus which totally ruins the mood.

    Also two mistakes in the article: It’s not a Kongregate game, and he made Achievement Unlocked, and not Upgrade Complete.

  7. Senethro says:

    Alright, Day 2, 2:16am. Thats about as good as I can do. Started off buying the revolver, bought spike strip traps, bought a fort and used it to bypass a long wave by sleeping, fought all the others, finished up by buying an uzi and repairing during the long reload times.

  8. Calabi says:

    Good game, although it doesnt play to my masochistic tendencies.

  9. jsdn says:

    A bit too easy. You can easily win well before you’d ever get a fully upgraded fort or the stronger weapons, so it’s kind of odd that they’re there. You have to purposely avoid your goal just to make any use of them, and then they’re not even that interesting or useful.

  10. Devenger says:

    Played this a few weeks ago. In terms of legit easymode, just buy the revolver, then bunnyhop around during combat phases firing until you can afford the assault rifle. Then buy the ‘burst’ (misnomer) upgrade, and it fires twice as many bullets. Hold fire and win. (Though, yeah, you could just avoid all the enemies too.)

    I do enjoy these sorts of games, but the combat is always so simplistic that I yearn for something more. Got to get back into making Flash games sometime…

    • Wilson says:

      @Devenger: Yeah, the machinegun is quite OP. And I completed it on day two the first time I played, as there’s a lack of threat once you can hide in a tower, there isn’t much of a feeling of danger. It’s an amusing way to kill some time, but I think it could be really good if the details were rebalanced to be more coherent.

  11. Frank says:

    It is a game in which you have to shoot all the monsters
    Nope. See Brumisator, supra.

  12. Petethegoat says:

    This is awful. Really really bad.

    Has no one heard of ‘balance’?
    The choices seem mainly to come down to buy gun, and win, or buy traps, and win slightly slower.
    Aside from the balancing issues, even, there is nothing even vaguely noteworthy, aside from the not completely obtuse interface.

    I honestly can’t find one thing with this game that would suggest it was at all RPS-worthy.


  13. 1stGear says:

    The fact that the monsters don’t damage your tower, but there’s an ability that repairs your tower implies that the creator literally just forgot to add in the monster tower damage. If they could hurt your hidey-hole, the game would become much more interesting: power through the monster assault and take the health damage or stay in your tower and hope it holds out long enough for the wave to pass.

  14. Koozer says:

    Er, my tower got destroyed the first time I played by the monsters. Could’ve been the birds, or the big squelchy ones. Maybe it’s just bugged or you guys kill them too fast.

  15. Tei says:

    I played not to win, but to relax. It kinda worker there. I like it.

  16. Ian says:

    Even I found this easy when I played it earlier in the week, and I’m rubbish.

  17. Senethro says:

    Guys, its not a game about winning, its about winning in the way you want to. Someone who just likes getting high numbers can easily stand about all day shooting the enemies while someone like me tries to win in the fastest manner possible. Even someone without the basic manual dexterity required can still rely on their fort.

    So its quite clever in the respect of letting you do what you want. If you really think its too easy then it shouldn’t be too hard for you to beat it in 1/4 of the time.

  18. mcnostril says:

    The ingame music reminds me of something.
    A TV show or something.
    It is driving me nuts.

  19. JuJuCam says:

    I appreciate that there’s a minor sandbox / score attack element to this, but at the end of the day the handheld weapons are so overpowered that by the time you get around to building turrets they don’t end up being that useful. It’s just far too expensive to get them upgraded to a point where they can handle even small waves without help.

    It would definitely be far more fun if there was a serious possibility of losing.

    • Hattered says:

      Perhaps a corollary to “Losing is fun”: “Winning is boring”?

  20. Sagan says:

    Hmm looks like my comment got swallowed. I wrote that I liked it a lot, then I liked that shooting is easy, because other survival games get this wrong. Then I wrote than I like that you are constantly under stress, and that other games also get this wrong because you can spend way too much time in the menus. And then I wrote that the article has two mistakes: a) this is not a Kongregate game, and b) jmtb02 made Achievement Unlocked, and not Upgrade Complete.

    This post can be seen as a short, crappy replacement for my old comment.

  21. Booya says:


    I literally thought about it the whole day.
    The score is from “Dexter”!

    • Booya says:

      should be a reply to mcnostril…

      I hope he reads this, because it bugged me, too. :D

  22. Freb says:

    Just what the world needs … another tower defense game. Joy.