There is a gaming mechanism used whereby one glides: you hold down a button to float upwards, and release this same button to begin to fall downwards. This mechanic is the core of Ava Airborne, PlayStack Ltd. and Laser Dog’s latest mobile game. Laser Dog is an award winning studio, and it shows in Ava Airborne. It’s a fun, cute game, though it’s cluttered with all the scores, ranks, shops, and cosmetics that bog down any mobile game experience.

When you’re playing the actual game, and not being bombarded by notices on ranks and unlocks and store menus, Ava Airborne is fun. As you progress through the level, you must hit balloons and pass through hoops. These increase your score and buoy you on, keeping you afloat in the air. Obstacles abound, from bomb balloons, to larger, hot air balloons that send you ricocheting, to electric wires that shock you, and more. The further you go, the more obstacles there are. Successfully dodging these, and aiming correctly for all the good balloons and hoops, brings a light addictive fun with it. This is strengthened by the popping noises of the balloons, which is very satisfying. It’s light fun, gliding, just right, through everything.

Like with many mobile games, the fun, core little experience of play is interrupted by constant barrages, with layers of shopping, in-game currency, rewards, notifications and cosmetic upgrades. In the deluge of menus and updates, I wondered why I wasn’t allowed to just play the game. I didn’t want to buy anything except Ava Airborne and proceed through stage after stage of gliding and dodging.

This is a diatribe against mobile games and not just against Ava Airborne, I know. The free-to-play business model most of these games operate on requires in-game purchases. I’d rather pay full price for a game and just play it, stage by stage and so on, than pick up a cheap mobile game that is filled with distractions. Another example: to continue after dying, you have to spend either in-game currency or watch an ad for another game. I usually passed on both, but the sweets I had gained had all been earned from playing. I did not have to spend any real currency for this, to be clear.

The game’s visuals are cute and pleasant. Ava talks in a little gibberish voice. The currency is “sweets,” and you can use them to purchase collectibles and contraptions. The latter are what you fly in, and you unlock them at each rank, though you then have to spend sweets on them. I also got a gift for my birthday, early on, even though it wasn’t my birthday. Ava acknowledged this, but wanted to celebrate the occasion, anyway. Okay!

The further you glide, the more challenging it becomes to dodge obstacles. If you hit something detrimental and begin to fall, you have to tap the screen repeatedly to recover. There are also trampolines on the surface of the water below that will bounce you back upwards. At times when I was losing my glide, I’d intentionally fall and aim for one of these trampolines so that I could bounce back upwards all the higher, and gain momentum. Whenever you do fall low enough, there’s a nice visual effect where the water splashes upwards as you graze it. If you go too high, you may also run into lightning storms that begin to appear further into the game.

Crucial to gaining as much distance as possible in your flight are rocket balloons. If you hit one of these, you can hold down your finger to zoom along continuously, without any obstacles harming you. The game is supportive, though, because no matter how far you fly, even if you plummet right at the start – which I’ve done plenty – it still gives the message “Great flight!” Why, thank you.

Ava Airborne is a fun game that I enjoyed playing, but I did not like the mobile-game aspects of it. If you are accustomed to the shops, scores, upgrades and near-constant bombardment of gifts and cosmetic items that mobile games contain, then you should have a good time playing this. If you’re like me then you don’t play many mobile games anyway, and will be aching to just keep playing rather than having to wrangle with all the bells and whistles.

Trevor played Ava Airborne on an iPhone via an invitation to TestFlight from the publisher.  The game can be purchased from Apple’s app store or on Android.