Hero Pop is a match-three puzzler that breathes life into a well worn genre. Since it's a free-to-play app, the game's addictive balloon popping does have its limits, and depending on your tolerance, your matching activities may be short-lived.

Pirates have kidnapped your friends and trapped them inside different colored balloons. Two heroes armed with a randomized set of balloons remain on the ground, and it's your task to have them release them in the sky to create perfect matches and combos. Once you pick which person to unleash a balloon, you drag him with your finger across your device and once you take your finger off the hero, he will release his respective balloon.

Hero Pop's allure centers on its play on the puzzle dynamic, as matching a certain colored balloon may not be the desired option at the moment. Instead, you may have to wait a few moves before you can executive a devastating combo. Along with giving gamers a more analytical take on the match-three universe, Hero Pop also gives players tasks to accomplish to clear each level. If these challenges are not met, the game's over and you'll lose one of your five lives.

Chillingo Ltd.

During my hours of gameplay, I completed twenty levels and each stage had its own set of difficulties. The biggest challenge is creating a super-balloon, which is accomplished by matching five balloons of the same color. When you must also free a select number heroes on the same level, Hero Pop becomes more than a diverting pick-up-and-play experience. Although the soft colors, playful graphics and the cutesy (and catchy) music give Hero Pop an inviting (and intended) family feel, it takes a bit of adult introspection (and a bit of luck) to master several of the puzzles.

Power-ups are also available once a certain number of level are completed. A high powered rocket that blasts through balloons is the first weapon you'll achieve, and after earning a healthy amount of doubloons you can purchase these power-ups at your whim. Since you'll only have a set number of moves to utilize on each level, knowing when to use these power-ups is of paramount importance. If you arbitrarily tap on the rocket, it may blast a select set of balloons you may have needed to create a super balloon and set you back several moves. Each Hero Pop decision matters, and that's why my time in the clouds is far from over.

Chillingo Ltd.

The game's major flaw is its freemium mechanic. Many of Chillingo's titles are littered with pop-up ads for other apps, and Hero Pop follows suit. It also takes way too long (30 minutes) to refresh one of your lives, so unless you go on a major puzzle streak or don't mind a few in-app purchases, you'll be relegated to brief play sessions with Hero Pop.

Since the balloon popping and intricate puzzle solving already had me captivated, these irritations didn't ruin my experience. My patience, however, was severely tested when, after completing twenty levels, I had to wait an hour to enter the next cloud. A Facebook integration icon gives you a "request key" to open the cloud, but I refused the offer.

The goal of clearing stages is to advance and move forward, and the decision to put a final roadblock to one's progress left me a bit perturbed.

Chillingo Ltd.

Hero Pop is too entertaining to pass up, and eventually I'll start level 21 and let bygones be bygones. There's a ton of fun to be had with Hero Pop, and if you don't mind a little irritation and carry a zen attitude towards free to play apps, grab a balloon, save a few heroes, and pop to your heart's content.

This review is based on a downloaded copy of Hero Pop for iOS.

App Store Link: Hero Pop for iPhone and iPad | By Chillingo Ltd. I Price: Free | Version: 1.0 | 60.5 MB| Rating 4+

7.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating