Review - Angry Birds Space
Angry Birds is the figurehead franchise of smartphone gaming. It has made billions of dollars through promotional marketing, merchandise, and of course hundreds of millions of downloads across dozens of types of devices. While Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio added a few new things to the mix and made Rovio a lot of money, they felt more like expansion packs than anything else. Angry Birds Space, on the other hand, is a full sequel to the original blockbuster hit. Does this other-worldly adventure faithfully follow up such a beloved classic, or is the mobile behemoth about to come crashing out of orbit?
Angry Birds Space takes place in space, obviously. Each level is a single or set of planets, satellites, etc., which your sworn enemies, the pigs, are now occupying. This is the only area where Rovio failed to capitalize on the space theme. Besides a few blocks of ice, every planet is literally the same drawing of a crater-scarred moon, only the size being changed. Each celestial body being different is too much to ask, but at least some variety of environments would’ve made Angry Birds Space a much better game visually. It should be noted, however, that this isn’t as big of a problem as it sounds as you are mostly focused on the various platforms that must be destroyed.
The birds and pigs themselves are rather small, which is necessary given the planetary scale of each level. Luckily you can still easily see the unique superhero-esque bird designs, which are all distinct, and the pigs’ amusing facial expressions as they realize that they may not be as safe as they thought they were. The same art style that has charmed millions of people is maintained, but it has been altered enough that it seems fresh, as well as fitting of the setting.
While a little variety would go a long way, overall Angry Birds Space looks very nice with fun characters and colorful environments, especially on a higher-end Android phone or Retina Display device.
Scientifically speaking, sound waves need matter to bounce off of, so you can’t hear anything in the vacuum of space. Unfortunately, Rovio decided to ignore this particular rule of physics. The vast majority of the time, the only sound you hear while playing is the constant clucking, squawking, and snorting of the birds and pigs. While this is amusing for a while, especially the sound of the birds hitting their target (which always reminds me of the Jawas from Star Wars), you will eventually turn off the sound and turn on your own music*. Throw in recycled impact sound effects and you have nothing terrible (aside from mild annoyance), but nothing rising above mediocrity.
On the plus side, the sound of getting all three stars followed by a new highscore is phenomenally satisfying. After each level, be sure to close your eyes in anticipation and pray for those four glorious stings.
*I suggest the Halo theme song or David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Angry Birds wasn’t the first destruction-based physics puzzler, but it was the first to really take off, spurring scores of wannabes and rip-offs. The notion of just launching projectiles to knock down things is overdone now, and Rovio knew that when starting development on Angry Birds Space. To make their game stand out (aside from the recognizable name), Rovio took not only their series, but the entire genre, to the next level by asking “why should there be only one set of physics?”
Angry Birds Space still has you launch birds into the air by pulling back on their giant slingshot, sending them flying into pigs and their battlements. What is done so brilliantly this time around is the bird’s journey to reach the pigs itself. Like mentioned before, each level consists of one or many planets. Each has its own field of gravity, which can vary in strength and size. This means that in order to crush your enemies, you have to take multiple elements into account. You can orbit around planets to slingshot into your target, you can arc a bird using gravity to make previously impossible shots, and you can push motionless asteroids into a planet’s gravitational field, sending them crashing onto your enemy’s heads, just to give a few examples. Basically, the possibilities are endless. Instead of solving puzzles based on physics, Angry Birds Space has you solving puzzles by using physics. And with a near-perfect physics engine, Rovio has succeeding in creating something that is truly a joy to play. There are plenty of moments when you’ll sit back and say to yourself “I can’t believe that actually worked” or “that was just plain awesome”, many more than I had previously experienced in the series.
The addition of a dotted line, which shows you the beginning of your bird’s trajectory as you pull him back, was a wise decision on Rovio’s part. It cuts out some frustration of flat-out missing your target, which would be much more common given the multiple gravitational field, but it still doesn’t make it too easy. I noticed just how accustomed to it I had become when I played the original Angry Birds a few days ago and failed miserably.
My one complaint with Angry Birds Space gameplay-wise is actually a complaint about Angry Birds in general. The levels are designed so that they can be beaten in a multitude of ways. You don’t necessarily have to hit each structure in specific weak points to bring it down, you just have to get the job done with the tools you are given. This makes Angry Birds less like a puzzle game and more like a destruction game. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good shoot-em-up or FPS, so I can appreciate blasting my way to pure carnage, but when a game gives you a certain amount of birds of certain types in a certain order, you expect that at least some precision would be needed. However, this is a minor design choice that was made nearly two years ago, so it doesn’t negatively impact the game in any considerable way.
Angry Birds Space contains 60 levels at launch, which is a decent amount for one dollar. While there is some challenge in these levels, it isn’t anything that will seriously hold you up. I personally blew through them all in about an hour while on a plane, but most people will break it up into smaller sessions, making it last much longer than that.
Like with the previous games, completionists are the ones who will get the most out of Angry Birds Space. A certain amount of points, which are gained from killing pigs, destroying objects, and having spare birds, are needed to achieve a 3 star rating. People who really want to can invest a considerable chunk of time and effort into perfecting each level, though this isn’t for everyone.
Small golden eggs can be found in a few levels by simply zooming out. Hitting these with a bird will teleport you to an “eggstroid”. These are small, unique levels that were inspired by other video games, such as Super Mario Bros. and Space Invaders (pictured below).
Players can also access 30 additional levels, called the “Danger Zone”, for an extra buck through in-app purchasing. It should be noted that this is not Rovio holding back content from the user. These are much more difficult levels that should only be bought by those who are up for it. If you are just there to have fun crushing green pigs, you should save yourself some frustration and money. With that said, they are fantastic for those looking for a real challenge.
Despite the new gameplay mechanics, it would be pretty easy to dismiss Angry Birds Space considering how few levels it has in comparison to the other Angry Birds games, which are also $1. However, Rovio is well known for its constant updates with more levels. It is pretty safe to say that Angry Birds Space will be no exception. Might as well get it now, play the levels available, then pick it up again when new content arrives. This greatly increases the game’s longevity.
Angry Birds Space is everything that I hoped it would be. While there is nothing spectacular production-wise, the innovative gameplay more than makes up for it. Boys and girls, kids and adults, newcomers and veterans alike should not hesitate to pick this one up. Even those who grew tired of the series as I did will find more than enough reason to give it another chance. It is an admirable step forward in a series that easily could have done just more of the same. A whole new horde of THAT-ONE-FREAKING-PIG-THAT-I-CAN’T-HIT-NO-MATTER-HOW-MANY-TIMES-I-TRYs await you. Crush them once for me.
(8s are great games that have something holding it back from excellence, or some features aren't as polished. The game is still extremely worthy of playing, but it may not be the most impressive.)
|Sean Capdeville is the official mobile game reviewer of ScrewAttack.com. A cynic and aspiring film editor, his favorite games include Skyrim, Link's Awakening DX, and NOVA 2. In his spare time, he likes to reference Casablanca.|