Trans-Atlantic Balloon Challenge
Copyright/Publisher: Virgin Games, Devloped By: Maxwell Technology,
Adrian Sheppard, Graphics By: Ray Owen,
Music By: Rob Hubbard,
Release Year: 1987, Genre: Mixed Sports, Number Of Players: 1 or 2
Cast your minds back a couple of months to when Richard Branson dominated the headlines with
his interminable attempts to get a balloon across the atlantic. Well, now you have your chance
to participate in this exciting and necessary event, by taking the grinning beard's
place and attempting to emulate his achievements.
The game takes the form of a two player balloon race between your Virgin balloon and an
annonymous challenger. Each player is given control of a flock of three sonic-beam spitting
eagles, used to guide and defend their balloon as it makes the perilous journey across the
sea. The birds are also used to sabotage the opponent's balloon and reduce his chances of success.
The screen is split horizontally, with the Virgin Balloon at the top. To the left of each
display area is a status panel containing three bars, representing Fuel, Altitude and the
eagle's Energy Status. Also present is a map showing the balloon's position. On the right hand
side are four icons which are activated to move the balloon left and right, increase altitude
or switch screens (so that your eagle can visit the opponent's screen).
The eagle loses energy as it flies, casuing its bar to shrink. Sitting on top of
the balloon replenishes the lost calories and the bar adhusts accordingly. The problem
with this is that the bird's weight causes the balloon to lose altitude! The bird
dies when its energy drops to zero, and it is then replaced by one of its colleagues.
Throughout the crossing an unfriendly biplane flies in and, if left alone, drops either a
pot of paint or puncture device. If ignored, these deadly objects cause the balloon to lose
height. Large missiles also casue grief and deflate the balloon completely if they hit their
target. Children occasionally sail past, carried through the air by bunches of balloons.
These yield extra points if collected, or remove some of the existing socre of destroyed.
The game ends when both balloons have burst, all the eagles are dead or one of the players
crosses the Atlantic. However, scraping your balloon off the Ulster landscape is not
recommended, and dropping the game in the Irish sea only serves to irritate the coastguard -
happy record breaking!
The effort that went into generating public interest in this ballooning non-event was admirable,
if not totally over the top. Our local radio station covered just about every minute of the
journey and every telly news bulletin showed pictures of the floating cheshire cat. Now we've
been treated to an infantile and unchallenging computer game!
There simply isn't enough in the gameplay to amuse a player for more then an hour - all
you have to do is protect your balloon from two types of hazard and occasionally change the
controls. It's true to say that the player is kept busy - but the action is just too boring
and overpriced to be worthwhile.
Once again that bored businessman hits the headlines - and his game hits the fan.
Trans-Atlantic Balloon Challenge is completely and utterly dire - I cannot pour enough
scorn on this pathetically contrived program. The link between the farcical aerail escapades
of Mr Branson and this 'game' is tenuous to say the least.
Save for the fact that it
features a red balloon with 'Virgin' slashed across it, there is no real connection with
the challenge proper. The addition of 'sonic beam spitting eagles' to spice up the action is
the final straw. There is some Trans-Atlantic, a little Balloon, but absolutely no Challenge
whatsoever. I bet Mr Branson hasn't seen it.
As if the event itself hadn't been over-hyped to the point of internal collapse, here's a
computer game just to remind you of the 'thrilling' Atlantic crossing- I wouldn't mind if
it was a good game, but it isn't. The two player mode is very badly designed, and a game only
lasts a minute or two before one player's balloon plummets into the sea.
Playing against the
computer is even worse - the wally of an opponent is completely unchallenging and is disposed of within
a minute. The graphics are poor and only the title music stands out as being good. At eight quid
it just doesn't offer good value for money.