Around mid March, I upgraded my underpowered, mostly unused cell phone to an Apple iPhone 4. In general I really never cared much to carry a cell phone, as only a small handful of people even have my number anyway. The most use I would get with my phone on a monthly timetable would be two phone calls received or made and possibly five text messages. I never even had the ability to play any games on my phone either, not that I really cared much; I could bring along my Nintendo DS if I wanted some gaming on the go.
One of the first games (I refuse to call every download an “app”) I downloaded on my new iPhone was Angry Birds. For a long time I had wondered what the whole Angry Birds craze was about. It’s one of those games where pictures could only describe so much – you launch several different species of birds into various structures, trying to incapacitate green pigs of various sizes. Really, what’s the appeal? For those without a smartphone or any means of playing this game on the go, there was no way to fully comprehend this phenomenon. What makes Angry Birds such a addicting mobile game?
Perhaps it has something to do with the pick up and play style. Depending on the stage layout and the number of birds you are given, each stage can take from 15 seconds, to under a minute to complete or fail. The brevity of each stage lends to the notion that the player isn’t ball and chained into the experience, relieving the feeling that they are forced to complete too many tasks in a limited amount of time. Whether it’s waiting on line at the supermarket or, for the lack of a better term, a bathroom break, there’s just enough game to play for whatever brief pause that awaits your life, without overstepping its boundaries.
Maybe it could have something to do with the brilliance of its gameplay, which rewards a more thorough and meticulous player, rather than someone trying to rush through a stage. There’s a significant amount of physics involved with Angry Birds, and even some semblance of an understanding to how it works will help player to not only conquer some stages much more easily, but feel immensely rewarded upon completion. Notice quite a few pigs under a couple layers of wooden plants with several large concrete blocks up top? Why not topple the structure from below to create a bigger ripple effect of decimation to said structure, allowing for those concrete blocks to possibly crash through the planks and squash your adversaries? While the physics do have their quirks (how several wooden planks, an ice block and concrete slab all leaning on the smallest pig doesn’t squash the little bugger, I couldn’t tell you) Oftentimes it’s the best solution for the toughest stages. Even while applying complexity to each stage, they never take too long to complete in the scheme of things.
The addiction could possibly be factored to the “one-upping” your own scores motif. Every stage has a three star rating, based on the score you produce. While certain factors such as destroying every pig on screen with the least amount of birds used will boost your score, there are times when complete annihilation of every breakable piece of every structure in a single stage will grant you a bigger payoff. It’s all dependent on the factors at hand. Regardless of that, the higher the score for that stage, the more likely you’ll receive a three star ranking. For those who don’t necessarily give a hoot about self or world rankings, Angry Birds opens up that urge to one up yourself and try to see just how much better you can do than your previous best.
In terms of gameplay, other than some wonky physics issues every so often, there’s nothing else to really complain about with Angry Birds. It’s simplicity meets complexity, starring several bird species of various perks, in a charming game world that doesn’t force you to stay within it, but makes you want to come back time and time again. It’s the makings of something special right? Well, yeah it is, however the huge success of the franchise has begun a bit of a marketing whoring that somewhat leaves a bit of a bird dropping taste in my mouth.
Now I’m all for companies branching off their success to a multimedia platform, so long as they are successful and it doesn’t seem like a forced venture. While the stuffed animal and t-shirt gimmicks are definitely not a bad idea, plans of a board game, talks of feature films, all seems like a milking of a novel idea and franchise. It seems like it’s too much, too soon. Then again, you can’t fault a company such as Rovio for doing anything they can to capitalize on a hot commodity. Hell, I grew up in the 80’s – probably the decade of milking a successful franchise from one market, into just about every market out there. I know I’m not the only one who wore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwear back in the days, drinking my Hi-C from a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe thermus that was inside my GI Joe lunchbox.
While whoring out your successful franchise of one multimedia platform into other multimedia platforms isn’t something that’s as widely accepted these days, it’s hard to be that upset with Rovio. After all, they did create the phenomenon that started it all with Angry Birds. It also gave me a new respect for the mobile platform in terms of gaming achievement. If it weren’t for Angry Birds, I would have been less inclined to try out some other iOS titles, including one exclusive to the platform and developed by Square Enix, in Chaos Rings. So it was a double whammy for me; I finally understood what all the kids were going on about with Angry Birds, and in doing so, I opened myself up more to gaming on my iPhone. While I would have no doubt introduced myself to the App Store and picked up a few titles anyway, it says something when you choose to play the one game you didn’t understand the praise for, and were somewhat turned off by, and end up cursing those god damn Angry Birds for all the right reasons.