Bloons 2 Christmas Game

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NinjaKiwi decided to make the Christmas of 2010 more special than most other Christmases by releasing the Christmas Expansion pack for Bloons 2 in December 2010. The new pack comes with 48 new levels that have all been designed keeping the Christmas spirit in mind, but those changes aren't the only ones in this pack. Here are some of the key features of this expansion:

Gameplay

Firstly, if you are one of those few rare individuals who instead of getting caught in the Christmas spirit are more than happy to keep it in check and not allow it to rule every sphere of your life for almost a month, this game isn't for you. That's not because the game is bad, it's because it is chock full of Christmas references and is generally very "Christmassy". There are cosmetic changes to almost every single thing in the game, and seeing that the game had recently received a facelift in Bloons 2, the new changes could be disconcerting or enjoyable, depending on your point of view. The boomerangs are red and white, the monkey wears a Santa cap, every level has a snowy background with a Christmas tree, the monkey that would earlier fly a plane when you hit a bulls-eye balloon now flies a sleigh, the pin balloons now release sprigs of holly instead, the music is Christmas themed and so on. It is a veritable feast of nothing but Christmas cakes loaded with Christmas icing and a Christmas cherry on top with candles that spell out, you guessed it, Christmas.

For all the cosmetic Christmas flavor of Bloons 2: Christmas, it doesn't have any new upgrades beyond those that you saw in Bloons 2. All the balloons are the same and while the darts resemble golden arrows now, they still do the same things that they used to. The fact that the levels have been designed so as to form patterns that are also Christmas-themed should only add another aspect to the challenge presented by the game. Yes, beneath that entire pretense about spreading Christmas cheer, all this pack is expected to do is spread more of that challenge-based misery that only Bloons players recognize and unfortunately suffer from.

However, if you start playing this game expecting more of that familiar misery, you will be sorely disappointed. It is as if NinjaKiwi took the Christmas spirit to heart and decided to be generous in what terms of the level of difficulty for once. Somewhere along the line though, they actually missed the huge line between "challenging for a hardened Bloons player" and "challenging for that Bloons player's pet" and ended up with Bloons 2 Christmas Expansion. This game is a successor to Bloons 2 in name alone and not in actual substance because it ends up not following the Bloons ethos and just being too easy for anyone who's played a decent amount of Bloons before.

The only level that musters up the courage to be proud of its heritage and actually follow in the footsteps of its fore (balloon) fathers is Level 45, called "Pine Lines". It is the only level in this game that requires the accuracy and luck that some of the harder levels in other Bloons games required. For this one, fire your first dart with full power towards the highest layer of balloons such that it gets both the triple dart balloons in that row. Next, fire your first triple dart, again with full power, towards the second balloon in the row directly opposite the monkey. The darts will get 3-4 balloons and then bounce away. Then, fire your remaining triple dart with close to full power towards the remaining balloon in that same row. The darts should enter into the pine structure and get quite a lot of balloons, including another triple dart. After that, fire the next triple dart just above the layer of bouncy wall blocks that is second from the top with close to full power. This should take out the balloons on the opposing side and pop yet another triple dart balloon for you. Fire that one right between the first and second bouncy walls to wipe out the odds and ends and get you yet another triple dart. Fire this one between the second and third balloons on the lowest level with close to full power to pop yet another triple dart balloon, and fire this last one against the third bouncy wall layer at a slightly upward angle such that the central dart bounces around and eventually pops all the remaining balloons in the last layer.

Despite the relative easiness of the game, you also have 5 super monkeys and 3 level solutions that you can use to help you with the game. While the solutions predictably provide you with the solutions, the super monkey option transforms your serene, Santa-themed monkey into that old all-conquering Super Monkey that was present in the Tower Defense games. This transformation might frankly be the biggest redeeming factor of this game. To get more of these after they have been exhausted, you have to use Mochi Coins.

What are the visuals like...

As mentioned above, graphics have changed only to the extent of including Christmas references within the balloons and darts. The game maintains the same polished look as it did in Bloons 2.

As for the audio, it is now the Bloons music in a medley of the Christmas songs "Joy to the World" and "Jingle Bells". They keep shuffling around and repeating only at intervals, so they don't get too irritating. You might even like the music if you start correlating it with easy levels.

To sum things up

Could the simplistic gameplay that had been a key characteristic of the Bloons franchise so far be wavering under the assault of polished graphics and innovative music types? Hopefully no, but this game does give the impression that the developers spent more time thinking of Christmas-themed graphics for the balloons than the levels of the game. All in all, this game is decent as a stand-alone, but can't hold a candle to its predecessors.