Love it or hate it, Angry Birds is back!
I’m one of those in the hate camp. Ok, hate is a strong word. It’s not that Angry Birds is a terrible game. It’s just that I don’t like all the hype it has gotten, especially when there are far more deserving games on the AppStore. It’s the same with every fad though, once word of mouth has spread, you see it on everything from daytime TV, to plush toys on the dashboards of cars. Should we chastise Rovio for milking this game for everything it’s worth? Of course not. But it doesn’t mean we have to follow the heard and lap it all up.
If you’ve been trapped under a rock for the past few years, let me quickly update you on what Angry Birds is all about. The basic premise of the game is that green pigs have stolen your eggs and made you angry. For reasons unknown you must launch your family of birds from catapults towards the nesting pigs, as they sit atop badly built structures. Using the laws of physics you must select the best trajectory so that your birds target an area that will cause the most damage, and preferably take out all the pigs in that level in one strike. Do so, and you will be awarded the highly coveted three star rating, and move onto the next.
There have been a few updates to the game, but no true sequel. Angry Birds Seasons mixed the gameplay with different times and holidays of the year, while Angry Birds Rio was a mash up with the film of the same name.
Angry Birds Space, however, feels far more like a sequel. Does it have a 2 in the title? No. But what it does is take the traditional formula (what I consider to be average gameplay), spices it up with new ideas, and quite literally launches it high into the stratosphere.
As you can see from the screenshots dotted throughout this review, the levels now feature planetoids, instead of a single flat piece of horizontal ground. One in which you catapult your birds from, and the others where the pigs are housed. Each planetoid has it’s own gravity field (shown as a glowing ring). While the trajectory of your bird through space is predictable, when they enter the gravity of a planet, it’s less so, particularly when multiple fields interconnect. Speed plays a big part; as your birds travel through space they do so slowly, but when they enter a gravity field they suddenly speed up. You’ll find yourself engaged in far more trial and error this time around. But instead of being frustrating, it’s actually fun to watch the crazy trajectories your birds will follow, as they circle planetoids and get sucked into gravity with a bang.
By taking the game from the confines of earth and into a zero gravity environment, Rovio have added a great new twist to the core gameplay mechanic; increasing the challenge, keeping the level design fresh, and making it far more engaging all at the same time. It’s not a totally original premise of course – iBlast Moki has been there and done that, as has the great Super Mario Galaxy – but it’s good to see Rovio not simply playing it safe, and instead trying out new things.
The added levels of physics isn’t the only things to wrap your brain around. The game also introduces new bird types too. Be it the triple threat of formation birds, that on a tap split from one bird into three, causing more damage; or the ice cube bird that freezes objects and makes them easier to shatter; there is plenty more to factor into your plan of attack.
To help you out, the eagle has made a return. As you successfully complete levels with 3 stars you earn eagles. In previous games these pretty much wiped the level clean of pigs. Allowing you to move on if a level was giving you a hard time. Now, and with an interstellar twist, the eagle creates a blackhole, sucking everything near it into oblivion. However, only placing the eagle correctly will ensure success. If a pig isn’t quite in range with the blackhole he won’t be killed. It makes you use your eagles more carefully.
Perhaps one downside is that the game is harder now, and in being so Rovio may forfeit some of the more ‘CASUAL’ casual gamers. It’s a bold move, but an important one – proving that it is possible to flog a dead horse but deliver a quality product at the same time. While gaming might lose a few casual stragglers along the way, we’ll at least gain some decent gameplay in exchange.
Angry Birds Space includes 60 levels out of the box, all for the low sum of $0.99 (69p). As you’d expect though, it’s possible to add more levels through in app purchases for an extra fee. While this does annoy many gamers, it’s not like a freemium title where you are forced to pay for upgrades, and new levels. The 60 or so you do get are challenging and will certainly give you a few solid hours of puzzle gaming. If you want more, then, and only then, will you feel obliged to plump down the cash for more.
Generally, purchasing new levels gives you more of the same, but with Angry Birds Space’s Danger Zone collection, you are in for some truly mind numbing challenges – not for the feint brained!
You have no doubt seen something happen here as you read this review. That’s right. I’ve been converted! Don’t expect me to start wearing Angry Birds T-Shirts all of a sudden, or going back and playing the original. But who knew that sticking an already strange pairing of birds and pigs, and launching them into an off-worldly environment, would turn me around. But, unfortunately for me, it has.