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Funny World & Balloon Boy

Genre: Multi Cart Developer: AV Artisan Publisher: Realtec Players: 1 Released: 1993

I loathe hyperbole. Nerds on the Internet are always quick to go to the extreme – “such-and-such is the worst game ever!” E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600, Shaq Fu on the Sega Genesis, Night Trap on Sega CD, and numerous other games are routinely and often unduly bashed as per popular meme, spread through the ignorance of and voiced by those who really don’t know better. Case in point is Funny World & Balloon Boy, two games on a single cartridge which both fail to surpass any of the aforementioned titles yet never gets a mention on the loads of “worst game ever” lists which litter the Internet.

Funny World & Balloon Boy is the first of what would be three releases on the Genesis by Realtec, the game’s distributor (the others being Earth Defense and Whac-A-Critter, both released two years later). Realtec no doubt bundled the two shallow games to appeal to consumers’ sense of value. I know this is what got me to purchase the game in part as getting two games for the price of one appealed to me. I’m sure this is the same marketing strategy which no doubt gave birth to Action 52, but this was years ago, before the Internet became widespread. That it lacked the Sega Seal of Quality didn’t bother me as well as I had enjoyed a number of other unlicensed releases from Color Dreams, Tengen, and Wisdom Tree.

Despite being a poor, shallow game with little to no redeeming quality through and through, Funny World & Balloon Boy isn’t exactly a horribly produced cartridge — it’s quite playable and almost halfway decent at first impression. Both games play fine with none of the horrid bugs and crashing issues which plague Action 52. While generally not a sticking point for mentioning in a review, the game’s lack of crippling programming bugs is a plus given the unlicensed nature of the cartridge. Plugging in the cartridge greets players with the game selection screen, after which the chosen game stays in the system’s memory until powered off. Each game offers an option screen to tailor certain aspects to his or her liking, and the title screens are reasonably attractive and help quell any sense of dread going in.

The first game on the list is Balloon Boy, a sort of ugly Pang variant mixed with Exidy’s Circus. Players control the Balloon Boy, guiding him horizontally along the screen while shooting rows of balloons scrolling above him. Each popped balloon will yield an item or enemy. Peaches, Apples, Egg Cakes, Happy Cakes, and other assorted food items award points to varying degrees. The Super Nut and the Clock will offer both points and ten seconds of extra time to the player. Enemies such as Spiders, Flying Insects, and Birds also emerge from shot balloons and threaten Balloon Boy. Since the player can only fire up, this makes collecting the good items a cinch but dodging fast falling Hammers from popped low balloons tricky.

The goal of each of the fifty levels is to pop all of the balloons within the time limit while surviving attacks from the enemies. Balloon Boy has a drab grey health meter at the top-left of the screen, and he will perish after taking too many hits. Enemies can be dodged or leapt over as needed; some such as the Spider and Bee can also be killed with a good old fashion video game stomping. While the enemies’ attacks are easy enough to survive, each hit also stuns Balloon Boy from shooting his gun, which also eats up time on the clock.

The first ten levels are called “Scenery” and are about as generic as one can get, and it doesn’t get much better from there. The game at least shows a modicum of effort with its animated backgrounds which sadly outclass the animation of the character sprites in the foreground. For a game released in 1993, Balloon Boy looks about five years behind the times. The music as well reeks of 1989 Genesis compositions with few instruments and short, looping audio. Though Balloon Boy is playable appears mediocre enough to avoid being slapped with a “horrible” tag, there is nothing here to draw the player into the game. Mitchell’s Super Pang, released three years earlier, blows Balloon Boy out of the water. Though the game controls well enough and the gameplay is okay for what it is, it’s just horribly repetitive.

It’s difficult to make a fun game. Balloon Boy could possibly have been fun with some more variety and challenge. As it stands, the game just forces the player to repeat the same strategy ad nauseam. The gameplay remains the same tired formula all the way through the ending “Machine Unit” levels, well over an hour of repetitive, joyless balloon popping. Nonetheless, it’s decent playing for a minutes or so and definitely the standout (to use the term loosely) of the package.

That makes Funny World the greater dud. Funny World is twenty-five levels of shooting animals as they run across the screen with the built-in weapon below. Animals carrying a blue bag enable autofire when shot, while animals carrying a yellow bag add a “big rock” to your arsenal, a bomb effect that kills all animals on-screen when used. Every so often, a princess will saunter across — shooting her removes a big rock and the autofire bonus. A bonus exercise round awaits the player at the end of each level.

Funny World, though technically a playable piece of software, is a terrible game. As with Balloon Boy, the game is hopelessly generic. The bear-like animals are called “Funny” in the game, and the player needs to land a certain number of hits to advance. The gun angles too slowly to nab the faster Funny; this is less a game of target shooting and more about simply learning when to fire the shot to hit the speeding Funny. It’s a light gun target shooting game that’s too cheap to include light gun support, so the developer put the gun into the game itself. Players are better off just leaving the gun pointed straight ahead and just learning to time the shot with the handful of different Funny. The few variety of Funny make this an exercise is tedium, because as with Balloon Boy, AV artisan just doesn’t know when enough is enough.

Many video game collectors routinely buy garbage in the quest to obtain every game for a given system. These are the idiots who purchase Action 52, Chase the Chuck Wagon, and other horrible but rare games on-line at inflated values – these are the people for whom Balloon Boy & Funny World still serves a purpose. The morbidly curious may also find themselves buying the game, as it offers copy protection against emulators that is shockingly better than the bigger publishers’ copyright and region lockouts of that era. Perhaps the sight of a color U.S. Sega Genesis manual – the “manual” being a lengthy foldout listing basic information and Realtec’s one admiral accomplishment in producing the game – along with the unique, smaller cartridge housing could spur people to check out this dreck. Funny World has all the depth of a “Shoot the Noun!” Internet Flash ad while Balloon Boy gets outclassed by far better, similar styled games. This is not a compilation but rather two substandard games designed to be released together on a single cartridge. Garbage is garbage no matter how many title screens it’s given, and while it may not be the “worst game ever,” there is no justification for wasting time with Funny World & Balloon Boy, a lackluster experience for anyone.

SCORE: 2 out of 10

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