Sir Benfro’s Brilliant Balloon puts you in control of the titular explorer and his Balloon. It will be your job to guide him safely through various levels whilst collecting Light Emitting Daves – fireflies to me and you - that will keep your balloon afloat.
As soon as you start the game up you'll immediately be struck by the unique art style on show. It would be an understatement to say this game looks fantastic. My applause really does go out to the designers here; they have created one of the most visually original and beautiful games I have ever seen, on any platform. Accompanying the superb visuals is a charming soundtrack that is consistently impressive. In fact, the presentation in this game is so good that it was often the main source of my motivation; I wanted to unlock new levels just so I could see what else the designers had in store.
That’s not to say the game itself isn’t good. The game controls well - you simply touch the screen to make the balloon rise, while letting go will allow it to fall - and when you find a rhythm you can see all the components slot into place, creating a quite enthralling experience. On the technical side of things the game runs smoothly - I never had any trouble at all in this department - while the menus are well presented and easy to navigate. There are plenty of rewards to unlock as you have postcards to reveal and a spotter’s guide to fill, complete with humorous descriptions of all the bizarre creatures you encounter. These are nice touches that show the developers care about their game. That being said, all of these rewards don’t require you to stray from the beaten path or do anything special. By the time you have completed the game, whether you intended to or not, you will have unlocked everything.
Completing the game is no easy task though. At first glance it seems a simple endeavour, one that will take no more than an hour or two (mainly because there are only four levels to complete). Having got to the third level without much difficulty I was under this impression too. What a fool I was. The last two levels are a real challenge. I want to clearly state that I believe a challenging game is by no means a bad thing, but the game often frustrated me so much that in the end I quit. Even on the game's lowest difficulty setting, of which there are 3, it's still very unforgiving. It isn’t just the difficulty that had me frustrated though; it was the fact that I had to play the same level over and over, and over, again. It wears extremely thin, extremely fast. I found myself wondering why the developers didn’t have more, shorter levels, rather than 4 good, but quickly repetitive ones.
No amount of frustration could stop me coming back though. The fact that the game could make me so frustrated, but always have the power and charm to lure me back speaks volumes. Sir Benfro’s Brilliant Balloon is a fantastic, flawed, beautiful and frustrating game, and for just £0.69 in the UK and $0.99 in the US, it’s a game everyone who owns an iDevice has to try.
This review is based on the launch copy of Sir Benfro's Brilliant Balloon, provided by the developer and downloaded via the App Store.