Angry Birds Review

Angry Birds Review

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Price: $2.99

It’s time for a little confession. I’ve never played Angry Birds before. In the two years since Rovio released it’s mobile juggernaut, I have not been the cause for one of the 250 million downloads that the series has achieved. Yet, I’ve not been spared the litany of media coverage and advertisements for the game. Truly, this is one of the first mega hits for a burgeoning mobile gaming platform that will undoubtedly be remembered as a classic in future years. It started on iOS, but its popularity has proliferated onto the Android, tablet, DS and PSP market.

But not on WP7 (and curiously enough, not on Xbox360 either)…that is, until now. It’s another title Microsoft can scratch off its list of missing apps on the Zune Marketplace, one that from the early stages of the OS’s existence, almost didn’t happen. Today, though, Angry Birds launched on a spanking new OS to ultimately increase its popularity once more.

So given the chance, I jumped on to see how well this two year old game stacks up with the hype behind it. Needless to say, this review isn’t for the gamers out there familiar with the game. Like I said, Angry Birds has spread its wings amongst everyone, it’s the Tetris of the new millennium. No, this review is for those of us that happened to miss the phenomenon on its first go around, or if you happened to live in North Korea for the past two years. But it’s also a review that pits what the game really is, and what it seems to be after all the adulation and blandishment it has received.

Windows Phone finally has Angry Birds, and now it’s time for the masses, once more, to revel in its wake.

Gameplay

Angry Birds is wickedly simple to learn, yet its not in the nuances of control that makes it a challenging and fun experience. Its addictiveness comes from its level design, and a heavy emphasis on chain reactions, and figuring which bird can do the job of starting said chain reaction to let the next bird take it from there. At the start of a level, one has a predetermined amount of birds at their disposal to try and destroy the green pig’s fortifications (I’ll spare you the reasoning behind this fowl and swine conflict, it’s all window dressing to give meaning to the proceedings). You also have a slingshot to fling the many variety of birds that you’ll have to use, but the caveat is that you can’t choose what bird goes in what order–you’ll have to use the birds given to you and the order that they provide. Which you’ll have to figure what part of the fortification you’ll go after first. Each fortified building or structure is made up of different elements. Some parts are made of stone, while others are made of ice and wood. The hodgepodge of materials to bust up present their own types of challenges to work around. In order to succeed, you must find a chink in the armor, and see where to fling your birds to exploit that deficiency. Ice and wood are easily breached, but the tougher stone slabs will take a couple of beatings before they fall, depending on the bird being thrown.

That said, this sort of gameplay can lead to a lot of trial-and-error, repetitive play. In order to get at all the green pigs in each level, you have to work through their fortified locations, but having that task can be tough considering the possibilities and options of your attack. It makes for some interesting situations, and it comes down to some small amount of planning if you want to avoid that sort of trial-and-error approach. Looking at the structure in front of you and assessing what part to attack first with the first bird in your hands will make it a more cerebral, and ultimately, satisfying experience. What adds more to the experience is the sheer inventive level designs that you’ll have to overcome to beat the game. I have to give props to Rovio in creating a magnificent, Rube Goldberg-esque, set of levels to play. The first initial levels are your basic forays to get you in-tune with the birds abilities. Those first levels wont impress you, and to be honest, pale greatly to the sort of mad scientist contraptions you’ll encounter in later stages. They’re fantastic, and really add to that element of surprise and eagerness to move on to the next level. Setting explosions in motion that create chain reactions of destruction is ultimately satisfying and never gets old. It brings the eight-year-old in all of us that loved to knock down the wood block castles of our own making.

In short, Angry Birds succeeds best when it’s about solving the puzzle of the structure to knock down. Taking an approach of discovery to find the right path of destruction is what really makes the game tick, and I can see why it’s such an instant favorite to gamers out there. It’s a simple formula that yields great challenges. In the grand scheme of gaming things, you can’t beat that.

Graphics, Music, Presentation

While Angry Birds’ level design is king, it’s complemented well by its visual appeal and presentation. Graphically, it’s not pushing the boundaries of the hardware, nor does it have to. Instead of flash and glamor, you have a cartoon style that borders on simplistic, and actually gives the visuals a Saturday morning cartoon feel. It certainly makes it easy to get in to, being so aesthetically friendly. It serves it well, though, as the visuals keep the framerate silky smooth with nary a slowdown. When the birds go crashing into walls and causing a ruckus, sending shrapnel of bits and pieces around, everything is presented so cleanly that it makes it even more enjoyable to replay some of the more, explosive levels.

What helps too is the quickness of load times. You can be in and playing within seconds, which is saying a lot considering some of the load times present in other games. One of the best things about playing this, is that you can literally start a level over in just a second if you happen to mess up. That swift restart helps to keep you engaged, and you don’t have to sit there and wait for a level to load to pull you out of the moment. Kudos to Rovio for achieving this.

Another layer that adds to the feel of the game is the sound effects. Birds cluck, screech, and chirp in flight and on impact, while the pigs oink in defiance. These little things add a small amount of humor, and just enough lively chatter to make the game experience complete.

Achievements, Extras, Etc.

The icing on the cake comes in the form of Golden Eggs. These are hidden eggs that must be found throughout the 165 levels available in the game. I won’t divulge what you get for these eggs, but it’s an added extra that makes it worth it for the watchful eye.

Achievements wise, definitely the hardest is the Episode – 3 Total Destruction achievement. To obtain this cheevo, you must have three stars in all the episode’s levels. Tough task to accomplish, but it will definitely add more replay value to the game.

In Closing…

As a first time player of Angry Birds, I can safely say that the hype is well deserved. Birds does a wonderful job of creating an addictive experience, and one that makes it hard to put the game away. Each new level gets better than the last, and each new bird you encounter wrinkles the formula just enough to add a new layer to the puzzle. And with over 160+ levels to try and obtain three stars on each level, you can have a huge amount of replay value and sink in plenty of hours. At this price, it can’t be beat.

Time will tell how Microsoft handles the other missing updates that were either free or at a low price for Angry Birds. However, for $2.99 and the amount of content available, this title is well worth the asking price, and another feather in Microsoft’s cap.