In late 2009 Finnish developer Rovio did what every small development studio aspires to do – made it big with a simple yet addictive game. The recipe for success, or “milking it” was staring them in the face, and since then we’ve seen a total of 6 full-priced Angry Birds releases on iOS, Android and beyond.
The latest is by far the franchise’s most adventurous yet – Angry Birds Star Wars, a controversial pairing for two immediately recognisable brands. But does the formula work? Will Star Wars fans cringe at the thought of a feathery Luke and Han, shot from a slingshot?
And more importantly – can Rovio keep churning out the same-old?
The Saga So Far
The Angry Birds game craze is difficult to grasp without looking at just how huge the franchise has become. In addition to the 6 full-priced titles, handful of free trials and a spin off in the form of Bad Piggies; Angry Birds game merchandise and references are everywhere. Sitcoms, talk shows, news anchors, US senators, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Finnish airlines, telecommunications companies – I’ll stop, but you get the picture. All of these entities have publicly embraced the game, and this is remarkable considering Rovio didn’t come up with the formula so much as perfect and market it.
Physics games have long been some of the most addictive time-wasters, with originals like Trials going on to bigger, better, full-price releases. Angry Birds is really a refinement of the Crush The Castle flash game, albeit better executed and with fluffy, marketable characters which most 5 year-olds will immediately recognise. This is not a bad thing, and it’s a formula that many other upcoming iOS and Android developers have tried themselves with varying levels of success. This has also resulted in an endless sea of generic physics puzzlers, and more positively the cheap $0.99 has really taken off.
The Angry Birds craze is truly a global affair. A week ago I was in Singapore Changi Airport, in which a heavily promoted Christmas Angry Birds game promotion was taking place. There were plushies everywhere and giant Angry Birds statues in the middle of the airport, as business men and tired tourists looked on. When I arrived at my destination of Cape Town, South Africa I saw the same volume of t-shirts, board games and toys sporting the brand. When I return to Melbourne in a few weeks, I know for a fact that Angry Birds slippers, keyrings and towels will be all over the place – even the fake ones.
Fake merchandise is in fact an issue which Rovio has handled with indifference, with Rovio CEO Vesterbacka commenting in 2011 that:
The way we look at it is, of course we want to sell the officially licensed, good quality products, but at the same time we have to be happy about the fact that the brand is so loved that it is the most copied brand in China.
And now that the prologue is out of the way, it’s time to see how the latest offering holds up.
A Long Time Ago In An Aviary Far, Far Away
Do you like Angry Birds? Well, you should probably go ahead and buy Angry Birds Star Wars then.
Really, what did you expect me to say? It’s more of the same, but this time round there are a couple of nice touches that just about set it apart from the rest of the franchise to feel like a worthy investment. For $0.99, the hours and hours of casual, addictive and oh-so-satisfying gameplay still doesn’t get any better. And yes, you can still give it to your little brother, technophobe dad or great grandmother and get the same response.
Some people say casual gaming is killing the hardcore games industry, but that’s rubbish. These games are a mile away from the twitch shooters and RPGs that sap hours of your time.
The game brings together the slingshotting action of the previous titles as well as the gravity-based gameplay of Angry Birds Space. The birds you know and love are all here, except this time they’re sporting Luke’s blonde locks, Han’s collar and belt and Chewy’s mass of fur. The representations are faithful, and the new abilities – force push, a lightsaber swipe and blaster fire to name but a few – are a lot of fun to play with. Similarly, the pigs dressed as bounty hunters and stormtroopers are perfect, with the addition of a few blasters to mix-up gameplay.
The game isn’t perfect, some levels still feel too easy and will only require one flick to get all the stars. The camera can also frustrate, moving by its own accord which can in fact ruin a few shots. This isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re tackling one of the more difficult levels and the camera messes up your hard work it can be annoying.
In addition to the 80 included levels and extra 20 provided with the Hoth update, there are an additional 40 levels available via the Dagobah in-app purchase which might disappoint some players, but it doesn’t detract from the rest of the game.
Should you buy it? Yes, probably. If you like the previous games you will enjoy this one. If you’re a Star Wars fan it’s a charming homage to the ageing series. Can Rovio keep churning them out? That remains to be seen, but for now the somewhat inevitable Star Wars tie-in is a treat for fans of both franchises. Buy it.
Visit: Angry Birds Home
What do you think is next for Rovio? Where can the Angry Birds game franchise go next? Is it time to slow down, or are more movie tie-ins inevitable? Have your say in the comments, below.