After months of waiting, it's finally here! Nitrome has just rolled out Hot Air 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the balloon physics game Hot Air. The new incarnation is bigger, better, more intricate and more stylish than the original, proving it's possible to take an already polished game idea and turn it into something even better. Plus, you get to make your own balloons!
The basic gameplay of Hot Air 2 is the same as the first game: your cursor becomes a fan and you must use gusts of wind to push the balloon around each stage, collecting stars, flipping switches, grabbing keys and so on until you reach the goal. Anything you bump into will pop the balloon (except certain safe points that let you rest), keeping you on your toes and always moving the fan around.
Veteran Hot Air players will immediately notice a difference in the sequel. Hot Air 2 has a much more involved adventure-oriented layout than the arcade-style original. Sure, there's still plenty of action to be had, but level structure has been greatly improved with scrolling stages and keys/switches that must be triggered in order to progress. The preview video shows off a number of these crafty mechanisms that simply must be experienced to be appreciated. Levels are chosen from a Super Mario World-style map, making Hot Air 2 feel like an adventure in a sprawling world of color.
One of the biggest new features in Hot Air 2 is the Balloon Maker, a separate app that lets you decorate balloons, save your creations, and use them in the game. Playing through stages unlocks additional designs that can be switched on the map screen. Balloon Maker is simple addition to the game, but I was immediately captivated by the editor and couldn't stop playing with it until I had crafted a masterpiece. Nice touch, Nitrome!
Analysis: Hot Air 2 oozes with personality and almost every pixel shows off Nitrome's creative and artistic talent. Some of the enemies and obstacles are so stunning you have to sit and stare for a few moments before starting the stage. Seeing what the team has cooked up next is half the inspiration for sticking with the game's tough levels.
The down side? Honestly, I can't find one. Hot Air 2 is extremely well-polished on all fronts. Any negative points would be a matter of not caring for the music or the way that one balloon frowns all the time. The blend of action and adventure is nothing short of delicious, and the creativity displayed in stage design and artwork rivals that of big-budget game development studios. Unless you have an aversion to hot air balloons, Hot Air 2 should be on your "play every day" list.