Angry Birds is one of those genre benders that combines the physics fun of a game like Topple with the concept of the castle siege. I’m pretty sure this is the only one you’ll run across that focuses on the war between birds and pigs, however. I’m never quite sure going into a game like this what to expect, but I’m happy to report that Angry Birds is amusing, challenging and above all quite fun.
You control the tribe of Angry Birds, who for some reason really don’t care for the pigs. On occasion there will be a nicely illustrated cut scene “explaining” the story, but to be honest I don’t really know what’s going on. That’s okay though, because it doesn’t impact the fun of the game in any way. On each level there are one or more pigs surrounded by wood, stone and glass structures. You must huff and puff and… oh wait, that’s the wrong story. In Angry Birds you have a slingshot and a certain number of birds, and you must use the birds’ talents to destroy the structures and get the pigs. Your main goal is to eliminate every pig from the level, but you get more points for bouncing, flinging and destroying things throughout the level. You can zoom in and out by pinching the screen, and the game is surprising playable even when fully zoomed out. Sometimes this helps you get a much better perspective on what you need to do.
The slingshot gets loaded automatically with the next bird in line. To fire the slingshot you pull back to adjust power and swipe up and down to change the angle. When you think you’ve got the right angle and power simply let go. Your bird will fly towards the opponents and hopefully do some damage. You can take out a pig directly by ramming a bird into it or indirectly by causing enough debris to fall on it. If you use up all your birds and there is still at least one pig left you’ve failed the level. If you get rid of all the pigs and have birds left you get bonus points for each surviving bird. Each level has three stars. You get one star for completing the level, but you can get more stars depending on how high you score. You must complete a level to move on to the next one, but you can replay any completed levels at any time.
Initially you start out with your basic red bird that can handle simple tasks but isn’t good at complex missions. Get enough of them hammering away at a target, however, and you might get somewhere. Next up is the nimble bluebird. They look small, but tap the screen while they’re in flight and they’ll split into three, causing a lot more havoc. Eventually you’ll get yellow birds, which look kind of like triangular versions of the red bird. These birds have attitude, though, and if you tap the screen while they’re in flight they’ll suddenly go into dive bomber mode and do more damage when they hit. Finally you have the blackbirds, whose round shape and overall design kind of give away their ability. Press the screen while they’re in flight and they’ll explode wherever they’re at. Have no fear if you miss the timing, though. You have a couple of seconds after they touch something to set them off as well.
The game is comprised of three “worlds”, each of which has 21 levels. Sometimes the levels seem a bit simplistic, and other times you feel like you’re going to tear your hair out trying to find the right plan of attack, but you never feel like you’re playing the same level twice. Most of the time you’ll feel quite accomplished once you’ve finished a level, though there have been a couple of occasions where I just sort of sighed with relief because I was glad to move on. An undo move would have been nice at times, but I suppose that might make the game too easy in spots. If I had to gripe about one thing, it’s the fact that there were times where it took me three or four tries to get a grip on a bird, because the game thought I was trying to scroll the screen instead. This is nothing big, it was just a small annoyance sometimes.
The graphics in Angry Birds are quite colorful, and there’s plenty of animation to keep things lively. Each bird has a unique look, and if you stop for a moment you’ll notice that they’re all bouncing busily about while waiting for you to launch the one in the slingshot. In fact, the next in line will actually jump in the slingshot after you launch the current bird, though this movement is hard to catch unless you’re zoomed out. There’s also nice detail in the environment, as objects will crack and splinter with repeated abuse if they don’t outright break. Even the pigs will show signs of damage if you don’t get rid of them on the first hit. The only area that’s a bit sparse is the background, but the silhouetted nature of the objects there actually works pretty well.
The sound effects fit perfectly with the mood of the game. The pigs grunt and almost taunt you as you’re trying to get rid of them, and the birds chatter and even laugh when they win a round. Cracking wood, shattering glass and splitting rocks all sound authentic. There’s even ambient sounds of… you guessed it… birds! Unfortunately there is no music, which is kind of a pity. The music during the menus is pretty nice, so I’m not sure why if nothing else that couldn’t be carried over to the game proper.
Most physics stack or tumble games are amusing for a while, but to me they usually lose their appeal rather quickly. That’s not the case where Angry Birds is concerned. The atmosphere alone helps it to stand out from other games like it, but the combination of multiple bird types, many diverse levels, and a three star level ranking system are enough to keep my interest piqued for some time. I think there’s probably a broader appeal to this game because of its silly premise, but if you’re a puzzle game lover you definitely owe it to yourself to check this one out.
Overall Score: 8/10
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