The Game: This is a game about the rough-and-tumble history of the taming of the North American continent, as told by someone who’s never been allowed access to any kind of reading material at all. You pilot a balloon across a scrolling landscape, avoiding (or blasting) birds and bombing a convoy of covered wagons. After conquering this level, you move on to a village of boomerang-throwing natives (and hey, early America was just thick with those puppies, wasn’t it?), followed by coconut-hurling gorillas (another prominent feature on the landscape of the early United States). A brief stage follows in which you must evade a series of random tornadoes, and then you have more wagons to bomb. At least they got something right – there are tornadoes in the U.S. (Rock-Ola [under license from SNK], 1982)
Memories: Before I launch into my tirade on this game, let me just remind you that the team of Rock-Ola and SNK was responsible for my all-time favorite coin-op, Fantasy.
Pioneer Balloon is a disturbing disappointment on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. The plotline is absolutely nonsensical – bombing covered wagons from a balloon? Huh? And let’s not even get into the natives with their boomerangs and those early American gorillas.
Okay, actually, on second thought, let’s do get into it, up to our ears. If the game isn’t disappointing enough as a stripped-down rehash of Fantasy‘s “avoid birds, gorillas, and coconuts” level, Pioneer Balloon reuses wholesale bucketloads of graphic elements from Fantasy, including the balloon, the gorilla, birds, natives (and their huts)…I mean, was this a contractual obligation game? It sure smacks of it.
A disappointing effort from the makers of a game which surely deserved a better follow-up than this.