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Balloon Pop

If you've ever played Tetris or Candy Crush on your smartphone, you'll already have a good idea of how Lautapelit's Balloon Pop works. This is essentially a board game implementation of the video games, with art by Paul Laane, but, since the theme imagines helium-filled balloons, the pieces you place out rise from the bottom up rather than descending from the top down.

There are no actual balloons. The 2-4 players are placing out groups of coloured plastic cubes to represent the balloons. If you line up four or more contiguous 'balloons' of the same colour, then those balloons pop and you score points. Some balloons have symbols on them; for these you only need two contiguous colours before the balloons pop.

That's the nub of Mikko Punakallio's game and it's pleasing to play even for children just randomly placing out their cubes without being sure in advance which ones will pop. Competitive gamers tho' won't be selecting their row of cubes at random; they'll be planning ahead and building patterns in their head to inform their choice of which row of cubes to draft. When the balloons pop those below rise up to fill the spaces, so you'll want ideally to set up a sequence of pops where each one sets up another.

Balloon Pop then is a light pattern recognition puzzle game and it plays in a filler-length 20 minutes. There's enough similarity with Tetris and Candy Crush that it's sure to appeal to veterans of those games but you can appreciate this game on its own merits without having played the video game equivalents.

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