The Game: Why worry about space invaders when there are more pressing earthly threats? Players guide a mobile cannon at the bottom of the screen, trying to take out a constant barrage of balloon bombers dropping live bombs. A direct hit to the cannon costs the player a “life,” but if the player allows a bomb to hit bottom, the results can be almost as dangerous: bombs crater the surface that the player’s cannon moves across, and allowing those pits to collect on the surface can severely limit the player’s movements, to the point of leaving the cannon a motionless sitting duck for the next round of balloon bombs, or a plane that periodically drops cluster bombs from overhead. (Taito, 1980)
Memories: One of the more obscure exponents of the same basic hardware platform that brought us Space Invaders Part II, Balloon Bomber is an interesting twist in the slide-and-shoot genre that’s based on a real (and very strange) footnote in history.
Audiovisually, the game isn’t terribly advanced; this is from the same time frame that saw Taito release other graphically-primitive coin-ops like Crazy Balloon and Lunar Rescue. The graphics are adequate to indicate what’s going on in the game, but the hardware configuration on which these games were constructed was in dire danger of falling behind what was being done by Taito’s contemporaries.
Very strangely, there have been real balloon bombers launched from Japan. Late in World War II, Japan launched and then quickly abandoned a program of unmanned, bomb-laden “fire balloons” that were designed to cross the Pacific within a week by being launched into the jet stream that also zips weather across the ocean. Very few of them made it to American and Canadian soil, even fewer of them actually went off, and only one balloon bomb ever claimed any lives (a pregnant woman and five children who were curious about the discovery of a downed balloon). Frankly, they’re more effective enemies in this game than they ever were in real life.
Balloon Bomber is an exercise in pure frustration because once the surface holding the player’s cannon is cratered, the only way to “fix” it is to sacrifice the current “life”, resulting in a clear surface with no damage. A mechanism like the bridge-building component of Satan’s Hollow might have made things more interesting. As it is, Balloon Bomber is more maddening than it is compelling.