Thanks to the massive success of Rovio's Angry Birds [$0.99] during the formative years of the App Store, physics-based puzzle games are probably one of the more, shall we say, over-represented genres on the App Store. At this point, I'd imagine most people have plenty of them in their purchase histories, and as a result, it takes something really special to make any actual waves in the genre. An initial glance at Earth Vs. Balloons [Free], which in screenshots looks very much like something that's been done again and again on iOS, isn't likely to turn anyone's head. But after seeing the name of the developer, I had to check the game out. This game comes to us from Mangobile, the developer behind the equally plain-on-the-surface Kingturn [Free] strategy games. They're probably never going to win any awards for presentation pizazz, and while the Kingturn games certainly have their twists, they don't get by on innovation as much as they do from immensely solid construction and clever scenario design.
My hope was that Earth Vs. Balloons would prove equally deceptive after playing it for a while. True to Mangobile form, it's a better game than it appears to be, mostly on the strength of clever level designs. That said, although it's better than it looks, this is a genre where this developer's particular skills don't stand out as well as they do in the strategy RPG field. In a vacuum, it's an enjoyable game that you could enjoy messing around with for a couple of hours. In the greater context of the overall App Store, it's just another decent single-screen physics puzzler, and it's hard to say who exactly is hungry for that.
Your goal in each of the more than 90 levels in the game is to pop all of the alien balloons. They're not much of a threat, being balloons and all, but they look quite mean and will mock you if you fail, so I guess that's pretty unpleasant. Luckily for Earth, these aliens are susceptible to all of the usual weaknesses of balloons. In this game, yo...