Rogue Sky would still be a noteworthy game even if it wasn’t made by just one person. Jakko van Hunen is responsible for everything except the music of this game. This fact is very impressive, as are the game’s visuals, but the real question is whether or not it’s fun to play.
Each section of the game has a variety of game modes you play through in order to progress to the next group of levels. It’s somewhat refreshing that the action isn’t exactly the same from level to level, but none of the modes are really that different or exciting. There’s “Rainbow Hunt,” in which your goal is to find clouds with rainbows hidden in them. In two other modes, “To the Top” and “Down to Safety,” your goal is to reach the end of the level with out dying. “Energy Run” has you collect as many power-ups as you can in a short amount of time. “Spirit Race” is almost like a timed version of “Rainbow Hunt,” and there’s also a “Blast Enemies” mode, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Ignore the insane jack-o-lantern to your right.
Finally, there is the least enjoyable and most unwelcome of all game modes: an escort mode named “Escort Old Pete.” It basically amounts to a slight variant of “Blast Enemies,” the difference being that you’re virtually tethered to another balloon. You can’t stray too far from Old Pete or you fail the mission. This frustrating mode just slows down a game that already has a fairly deliberate pace.
Rogue Sky has reasonably responsive controls, but much of the action feels out of your hands, making failing that much more irritating. The game ramps up difficulty by adding elements that tend to be unfair, unrewarding, or impossible to respond to. One prevalent example is that, halfway through the game, you start getting shot at regularly by elements of the background. You can’t do anything about it, and often the shots appear from behind clouds to surprise you.
It’s Halloween somewhere.
Another of Rogue Sky’s many problems is that its narrative elements are presented very awkwardly. The game acts as though you should understand the context of the player characters’ actions, but without bothering to explain anything. Perhaps if the story was more gripping, we’d be more forgiving of its gameplay shortcomings.
The strongest feature of Rogue Sky is inarguably its look. The game’s graphics are gorgeously detailed and very original. The clouds in particular have a simple, elegant look to them, and the way they are arranged to create each level’s boundaries is seamless and convincing. The hot air balloons that make up the game’s protagonists and enemies also have a lot of character. Despite our problems with the game, Rogue Sky is one of the best-looking games you can see on a Retina display.
Rogue Sky has an excellent look, and we appreciate that it was made by just one person. It’s just that the gameplay felt like a slog to us, and when you’re not having fun, you have to wonder why you’re playing a game in the first place.