The Balloons, also known as Exploding Balloons, are recurring gimmicks in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. When bouncing on a balloon, it will cause it to pop and bounce the player higher into the air.
Balloons are usually floating in mid-air inside different Zones. When a playable character jumps on top of a balloon, it causes them to bounce higher into the air, allowing the player to reach higher places and cross hazards. Sometimes, they are also arranged so the player can reach alternative routes. A balloon will normally explode and disappear from touching it, but will respawn later. This either occurs when player returns to the same area with the popped balloons or when another set of balloons float in to replace them.
Balloons usually appear in four colors: blue, green, red, and yellow, although there have been a few exceptions too. These objects may include a single balloon or a group of three or four balloons.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
Balloons made their first appearance in Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball. In this game, balloons only appear in groups and have a more bulky design (with short chains attached on their bottom) than their stereotypical design in later games.
Balloons only appear in Showdown on the sides of Robotnik's Ship. When making contact with them, the player will bounce backwards without puncturing them while earning a huge amount of points.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3
In Sonic the Hedgehog 3, balloons are only seen floating individually in Carnival Night Zone. Here, balloons are either blue, dark blue, dark red and yellow. While the balloons can bounce playable characters into mid-air, the player must land squarely on top of them to bounce straight up. Otherwise, they will pop without creating a lift. Normally, balloons will also rematerialize after a second, although the playable characters have to get out of the way or they will pop upon respawning.
Carnival Night Zone features medium-sized flat platforms that have several balloons below them. The player can ride upward on these platforms by jumping onto them, upon where the balloons will start pushing them upward. When the Knuckles shuts down the electricity in the zone, balloons will get darker than before. In Carnival Night Zone Act 2, underwater balloons can release Air Bubbles after popping them, which helps prevent the player from drowning while underwater. They also appear in Balloon Park Zone, a multiplayer zone.
In the locked-on version of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, balloons also appear in Knuckles' shorter version of Carnival Night Zone. However, due Sonic and Knuckles sharing different color palette, blue, dark blue or black balloons do not appear in Knuckles' version of the Zone at all. Should the player use Glide with Knuckles when he touches a balloon, the player will gain extreme leaping height and Knuckles can glide even higher than usual.
Sonic Drift 2
In Sonic Drift 2, Balloons appear in Balloon Panic under the name Balloon Power-ups. Here, the Balloons replace the game's standard power-ups and lie scattered all over the racing track. When touching these Balloons, the player experiences in most cases an effect matching one of the game's power-ups and/or obstacles. The type of effect depends on the balloon's color:
In Knuckles' Chaotix, balloons appear in Speed Slider. In this game, balloons appear in red and yellow pairs tied together at their wires and have green details on their surface. Unlike in previous games, the player, along with Combi Partner, cannot pop these balloons. Instead, they bounce smoothly off them when hitting them.
In Tails' Skypatrol, balloons serve as useful gimmicks with mechanics different from their normal ones. In this game, balloons are orange and have a small knob at the end of their wire to hang on.
Balloons mostly float around individually in every area of the game. When the player touches a balloon, it latches onto Tails and pulls him upward for a short time. However, the player can barely control Tails until he returns to normal flying speed.
Sonic 3D Blast
In Sonic 3D Blast, there are only blue balloons, which appear in Spring Stadium Zone. These balloons are mostly set above large floors full of spikes that will pop out if the player stands on them, making the balloons useful for crossing such floors. Normally, balloons in this game will respawn after the player returns to their area.
In Sonic R, balloons are only featured in the Time Attack and Versus modes. In gameplay, there are "Get 5 Balloons" races, where the player has to find five blue balloons hidden on the race tracks. In the PC version of the game, balloons have more colors, such as red, blue, green, yellow, and orange.
Sonic Advance series
In Sonic Advance, red, blue and yellow balloons appear in Casino Paradise Zone. In this game, balloons seem to appear more individually than before, and are used by the player to get up steep paths. Like in previous games, these balloons will respawn after the player returns to their area.
Sonic Advance 3
In Sonic Advance 3, Toy Kingdom has its own unique type of ballons. These balloons are either red, blue, green or yellow, and are round with bunny ears. In this game, balloons are either set in rows for the player or placed individually. Also, if the player pops these balloons at the right angle, it lets the player make extra high leaps. Like in some of the older games, balloons will here respawn when the player returns to their area.
In Sonic Unleashed, balloons are either red, blue, green and yellow. In this game, they are generally seen during the Day Stages of Rooftop Run and some of the missions. In gameplay, balloons mostly float in rows, which the player can here target with the Homing Attack.
In Sonic Colors, balloons are featured in numerous sections of Tropical Resort, where they look and act like in Sonic Unleashed. These balloons appear in groups of four, but act mostly as a single balloon. While normally used to reach higher sections, there are also small holes filled with balloons that the player can bounce right over using the balloons. In this game, balloons usually respawn by dropping down from the sky right after popping.
In the console/PC version of Sonic Generations, the balloons' appearance and function are similar to that of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors. In this game, they mostly appear in both acts of Rooftop Run, but are also present in many other places, like in the White Space. In Rooftop Run Act 2 in particular, there are balloons across a bottomless pit which the player must bounce across with the Homing Attack to proceed with the Act.
In the 2012 remake of Sonic Jump, balloons are either colored red, green, blue or light blue, and appear in different amount of groups. In this game, they only appear in Blue Sky Zone. While they act like the platforms and clouds in the game, they will still pop after the player has bounced on them.
Sonic Lost World
In the Wii U version of Sonic Lost World, balloons are featured in Circuses. In this game, breaking balloons makes Animals pop out of them for the player to collect. In gameplay, there are different types of balloons that move through mid-air. Normally-sized blue, green and red balloons break easily, while larger, light blue balloons need more impact speed to break. There are also light blue and yellow balloons which only increase the balloons' flying speed after breaking them.
The Goal Balloon appears at the end of each of Amy's Action Stages in Sonic Adventure. When Amy Rose has grabbed the balloon, the player has completed the Action Stage. It is large yellow balloon with red star on the center. It also has pull ring hanging on below the balloon.
The Big Balloons are balloon gimmicks that appeared in the console/PC version of Sonic Generations, and come in a variety of colors. When grabbing onto the handles on these balloons, the player can ride with them into the air until they pop.
Similar to Sonic and Knuckles color palette issue in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, if the player turns into Super Sonic, the blue balloon will start flashing on light yellow, while on turning to Hyper Sonic will cause to balloons flashing multiple colors.
In Sonic Advance 3, if the player chooses duos such as Amy/Tails, Amy can perform a Floating Fall after pressing jump button again, in which the Amy will fall down more slowly as hanging on with two red and white balloons.