Apparently Earth just couldn’t contain the popularity of Angry Birds.
I’m sure you’re one of the 10 million people that downloaded Angry Birds Space the day it came out. If you’re not, then you’ll most likely become one of the hundreds of millions that will eventually download and play the game one way or another. I belong to the first group but not because I’m a fan of Angry Birds, rather because this version of the game actually sounded interesting.
Haven’t we seen this all before?
I didn’t buy much into the first Angry Birds when it came out a couple of years ago for a few reasons. First, I didn’t have a smartphone at the time so I couldn’t play it whether I wanted to or not. Secondly, by the time I did get a modern phone and was able to try the game out, it failed to impress me as a game. I admit that using your fingers to pull back the slingshot and watch the birds fly was entertaining, but couldn’t help but see Angry Birds and feel like I had played the game before.
One of the first computer games I played when my family got a PC was called Tank Wars. It was as simple game that challenged players to angle their tank and set the velocity of their shot to try and hit their opponent. Scorched Earth was another tank game that played very much the same as Tank Wars but added a lot of power-ups and weapons (and frankly, Scorched Earth needs a smartphone port). When I saw Angry Birds the only thing that seemed different was the interaction. Instead of a keyboard/mouse, you used your finger. The game mechanic lends itself to finger play but people have been playing that same game for years, even if only as a Flash game on some random game site. The fact that Angry Birds was on the iPhone is the only reason it became a hit, plain and simple.
Another reason I didn’t dive into Angry Birds like a lot of my friends is that it is, in short, a very frustrating game. I learned a long time ago not to bother with games that piss me off, and not because of decisions I make. I can deal with difficult games if they are hard because of the decisions I make while playing…that’s the basis of every arcade game ever made. Angry Birds came with its own flaws that made less of a game than it really is, most notably the size of the game. Even though the size of the screen is not something Angry Birds could control, it is something they could have accounted for better. By the time you zoom out to get a full few of the board, everything is so small you can barely tell what is where and what you’re aiming for. And last but not least, you can only throw birds at pigs the same way so many times before it starts to wear a bit thin. Thankfully, Angry Birds Space remedies some of these problems.
Gravity, she is a harsh mistress
A quick look at Angry Birds Space and you’d be quick to say that it suffers from all the problems of the first Angry Birds. I certainly assumed that but the promise of a sci-fi theme and space physics drew me in, and once inside I found a game that I could enjoy a lot more than the original. Don’t get me wrong, Angry Birds Space still has a lot of problems but there’s a lot more challenge to keep my mind busy.
For one, you have to deal with gravity…or lack there of. By adding some new physics concepts to the game, the way you think about approaching each level is radically different than launching birds at a pig fort under the same conditions all the time. In this game everything behaves (more or less) like you would expect. I’m not a rocket scientist but what little I think I know about gravity and zero gravity was a joy to apply in this game. You can use planets’ gravitational pulls to slingshot your birds around the board, making some impressive trick shots. But sometimes you’re out in zero gravity where your bird will just go straight unless it hits something or gets close to a planet…and when an object leaves the pull of a planet, it keeps going straight into space just like you would expect. This version also sports some hidden treasures, secret levels, and other goodies that give it some more “quest” features. There’s just enough change in Angry Birds Space to keep me playing and trying for better scores, something the terrestrial Angry Birds couldn’t do.
However, this isn’t to say Angry Birds Space is that much different or less frustrating. The game still suffers from small screen syndrome and I promise that you’ll be swearing at your phone in record time when something doesn’t behave like you would expect. Actually, something not doing what you expect is fine – that’s how you learn – but it’s really hard to learn what’s right and wrong when you do the same thing multiple times and each time get a different result. If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, then Angry Birds Space is the most sane game of all time. I must also say that the ad placement on the free version of Angry Birds Space is so incredibly big and in the way that you almost have no choice but to pony up the dollar to enjoy yourself. I know that’s lame complaining about a one dollar game, but I call it like I see it.
Birrrrrrdddsss in spaaaaaaaaccceee
In terms of sequels, Angry Birds Space delivers. It’s more of the same with just enough different to keep loyal players happy while drawing in new players like me and keeping them around. Yet it’s interesting to get my wife’s thoughts on Space…as a long time Angry Birds fan she doesn’t really like Space. To each his own, I guess. If I think hard it makes me sad to think that people are already saying things like, “I remember the first Angry Birds and it was a lot better.” But maybe if we’re lucky they will create Angry Birds Wars and we’ll be flinging birds at other players trying to knock down their fort, just like good old-fashioned Scorched Earth. Really, it’s the only place Angry Birds hasn’t gone yet, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens. Maybe someday…