"Out of this world fun."
There’s been one king that has sat on top of the mobile gaming throne for a good while now – Angry Birds. Love it or hate it, this phenomenon has swept over the world of mobile gaming and refuses to budge even an inch. Words with Friends? Take your made up words out of here! Cut the Rope? Cut it out! Hell, those damn Angry Birds even have a board game made after them. Yes, it seems as if these winged weapons of mass destruction have taken over this planet.
So why not send them into outer space?
Rovio’s Angry Birds Space sends our feathered friends into space, where no one can hear you scream, yet apparently birds, pigs and crashes are all audible. This ambitious installment to the Angry Birds franchise promised a few key changes to the formula, while staying true to its roots. Did Rovio succeed in their attempt to infuse new gameplay elements while remaining as faithful to what made this such a global sensation?
The major gimmick here involves gravity, of course. Propelling a bird into outer space more or less is a straight shot, with no deviation from its trajectory, unless they come in contact with an object or a gravity field from a planet or another land mass with a gravity field. This alone introduces a layer of depth that all but supersedes Angry Birds in every which way. Birds flung into an area with a gravitational pull will enter its orbit and dive towards any obstructions in its way. The uncertainty of where a bird would end up is erased by adding a dotted line trajectory to show players exactly where the birds will end up if they are aimed into an area with gravity.
The engine as a whole is impressive, especially when you realize that this was purchased for one measly dollar. There’s a layer of depth present that’s strikingly familiar to those who’ve spent inordinate amounts of time with Angry Birds, yet there’s an extra layer on top of that to give the experience a fresh, mind bending take to what’s possible and what isn’t. Sometimes just aiming a bird towards an obstruction on a planet isn’t enough; by viewing the entire stage before flinging a bird out, one might discover an asteroid that they can knock into the planets orbit, increasing the amount of damage done. It’s that sense of experimentation and perfectionism that the franchise is known for, but finding that perfect strategy to complete a stage or three star a stage feels even more rewarding than ever.
Not every bird is the same as before either. They mostly have similar looks, though they were all infused with a bit of a futuristic look, or at least may be moonlighting as members of the X-Men. The yellow dive bomb bird now sports some Cyclops-like shades, changed its color to purple, and will dive towards the direction you touch. So technically the player is no longer restricted to diving just forward with no true control of where exactly the bird lands. Depending on if the bird is whirling around inside a land masses gravitational field, the player can go completely around an object for a better angle, touch where they want the strike to happen, and the results will unfold. The one bird that’s missing (aside from the recently introduced inflating bird) is the toucan, who was able to boomerang around when the screen was touched. In its place is an ice bird, who can explode on a collapsible obstruction and encase the surrounding area in ice, which opens up another avenue of destruction.
Angry Birds Space features the same quality of audio and video as the previous installments. No frills, nothing especially impressive. They both compliment the action on screen and not necessarily augment it. Some might have issues with the lax quality, though the gameplay and physics have always stood head and shoulders above any cosmetic or auditory influences. The story falls in the same area as well, where the flimsy, nonsensical storyline is more of an afterthought to an afterthought than something that’s been given much care.
The one thing that cannot be so easily set side is the one thing that helped make Angry Birds so elementary to pick up but hard to put down – the controls. It took about an hour for me to realize that there’s an issue with precision when it comes to firing a bird to the exact location that I envisioned. If even the slightest movement is performed between final placement of where the bird will travel and the finger lifting off from the touchscreen, there’s a slight deviation in where the birds will go. When I say slight, I mean a perfectly lined up shot (according to the dotted trajectory shown on screen while aiming) will dart a bit higher or lower, which can, and usually will, completely whiff an attempt to take out the object intended. While a majority of early gameplay will revolve around experimentation and finding out whether or not that one shot would work or not, this is something that can and will drive gamers crazy. It happens often enough if there’s not enough patience enforced, but even still there will be misfires that occur more often than any other game in the franchises’ history.
The only other complaint I have is the amount of content. I came into the Angry Birds craze almost around this time last year, so I didn’t witness the early days unfold and see how much content was available. With a bit more than five dozen stages available, there’s not a whole lot of content out of the box, so to say. An extra dollar will open up about twenty “expert” stages, so in essence, to get the whole gist of what Angry Birds Space has to offer, all nearly six dozen stages or so, you’ll have to spend two dollars. The monetary aspect isn’t a problem at all (for $2 there’s more replay value and incentive to come back and best your scores than is most $60 retail titles) but the out of the box content just seems a bit too paltry. Five dozen stages sounds like quite a bit of content, but some of the stages can be cleared quickly, even if you’re a perfectionist like myself, striving to get 2-3 stars before moving to the next stage. As with Angry Birds Angry Birds Seasons Angry Birds Rio, there’s a thrill in conquering previous scores, something I frequently find myself doing. Maybe another planet worth of stages would have sufficed, but the way Rovio supports their releases, that “Coming Soon” planet will be inhabited soon enough.
Even if it’s just a dollar for the standard stages, Angry Birds Space is more than worth that single buck, or even two bucks if the “expert” stages are purchased as well. There are control issues, though patience and decreasing the speed in which ones finger depresses the touchscreen does alleviate the issue somewhat. On top of that, Rovio loves to add onto the purchase long after its release, so there will be a myriad of content trickling in through the next few months. If you’re anything like me, you’ll still be hacking away at your previous scores until then, and well after that.