The item's effect is to make whoever picks it up swell up like a balloon and become Balloon Mario or Balloon Luigi, causing them to hover in the air. They will gradually float upwards if not moved by the player, but are capable of moving in any direction for a limited amount of time. During this time, Yoshi cannot be ridden. Mario or Luigi will start to flash when the item is about to wear off, and when it does they return to normal size and drop out of the air. The level Tubular in the Special World requires the player to continually pick up new P-Balloons to maintain flight while they make their way across the level. If Mario or Luigi pass through a Giant Gate while under the effects of the P-Balloon, they will gain a bonus Super Mushroom.
While the P-Balloon item has been rarely seen after Super Mario World, its effects lived on in Super Mario 64 DS where, on picking up a Power Flower, Mario would blow up just as with the P-Balloon and float. The control scheme for this transformation has been changed somewhat; Mario now gradually floats downwards instead of upwards, and has to be kept in the air by tapping the jump button, similar to swimming in 2-D Mario games. Once again, he flashes when it is about to wear off and plummets when it does. Mario is the only character who is affected this way when he picks up the Power Flower. Later, in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Mario can become Balloon Mario after being air-inflated. Luigi can grab onto Mario, so they can jump up and slowly float down.
The P-Balloon also made appearances in the Super Mario World television series, most notably in the episode "Mama Luigi" where Luigi uses it to float safely down a chasm. Later in the episode, Mario uses it to re-inflate Luigi back to his normal shape after he was flattened. In the series, the P-Balloon is referred to as a Magic Balloon. It also appears in another episode, "Gopher Bash".
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