In most cases, the sight of a hot-air balloon in a clear blue sky slaps a smile on anyone's face -- even someone who just found out they lost their pet and are late again on last month's rent. The balloons in Rogue Sky, an addictive little sky platformer with some serious combat strategy tossed in, are more likely to make you cower in fear or run for cover. Both the balloon you pilot and the ones that are trying to blow you out of the sky look like monsters or hot-air-filled Halloween pumpkins. That's just one of the ways Rogue Sky sets itself apart from the typical shoot-and-collect iPad app.
Piloting one of these airborne monstrosities, you have to navigate increasingly complex mazes of clouds -- including black thunderclouds that threaten to zap you from the skies with lightning -- collecting coins, blasting balloons out of the sky, and avoiding homing missiles. It's more difficult than it sounds. Even though the game's controls are only a left and right button, tapping them in proper sequence to launch weapons, float and descend isn't like your typical balloon ride at the county fair.
Rogue Sky cleverly comes equipped with a floating difficulty level. Completists can bash balloons all afternoon, trying to puzzle out every cloudy twist and turn of each level. If you're more about unlock-'em-all, the shortest distance really can be a straight line -- provided you can figure out how to aim your projectiles well enough to blast your targets.
Final verdict: Gorgeous, Halloween-style graphics and clever levels make this app easy on the eyes. The clever challenge curve ensures you won't finish it in the 10 minutes those county fair barkers give you on their rainbow balloons.