I’m the angry one
As I’ve said a million times in the past, I have no real problem with the original Angry Birds and the initial string of sequels. Yes, it was a derivative of Crush the Castle, but Banjo-Kazooie was a derivative of Mario 64 — and so on throughout history.
But with Angry Birds 2, the thirteenth game in the franchise since 2009, there’s a clear regression in many ways, despite the impressive art upgrade.
Angry Birds 2 (Android, iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 6])
Developer: Rovio Entertainment
Publisher: Rovio Entertainment
Release Date: July 30, 2015
Yes, it’s still the same concept as before — you’ll take a handful of birds, and with the help of a slingshot, fire them into the path of evil pigs. Just like before, it’s still really fun to unwind and fling things around, and actual designs of some of these forts and contraptions hasn’t gotten stale. Sure it’s mostly mindless, but there’s a great degree of skill involved with Angry Birds as well, like identifying specific objects like TNT, and certain degrees of structural integrity to do the most damage.
This depth is aided by the fact that like in Angry Birds Star Wars II, you can choose individual birds to use in each level. Levels are much more interesting as you can now approach them multiple ways, not only in terms of figuring out solutions, but different methodologies in which to reach your end goal. It’s also a beautiful game, and Rovio has mastered their craft to the point where it has production values much like a fully-fledged Disney experience. I love how bright everything is, and how charming the character designs are even to this day. Now here comes the bad news — Rovio got greedy.
Unfortunately, it has heavily incorporated free-to-play elements into the game in just about every way possible. There’s an energy meter, there are in-app-purchases (IAP), and it constantly nags you to connect to Facebook. Let me break it down though so you better understand exactly what went wrong. In terms of energy, players can thankfully continue to play levels without using up your stock of five “hearts,” but if you fail a level once, you’ll need to use some stock. This is an issue after level 20 or so, as stages become so complex that you’ll often need to give them a go a few times.
It also exposes the “multi-tier” format of Angry Birds 2‘s stage design. In short, each individual world map level can have multiple arenas within it, so if you fail on a later tier, you’ll fail the whole thing. It’s actually a cool idea in theory, as you have to play conservatively and try to earn more lives constantly, but it all falls apart when you add in an energy scheme. IAP feels wholly unnecessary, as the game charges a ton of “gems” to continue mid-level after failing to come back to life. Gems are earned at a rate of roughly one continue per 45 minutes, lest you opt to buy them.
The sad part is that unlike most of the iterations in the past, there’s no option for a premium version. Say what you will about the franchise, but Rovio has generally done pretty well in a sea of freemium-fests over the years, providing fans with a way to buy a game outright. But with Angry Birds 2, you’ll have to suffer through all of the fixin’s that Rovio forced into the game.
Angry Birds 2 proves that the Angry formula is still fun, but Rovio isn’t doing itself any favors by gating that fun left and right. Angry Birds is supposed to be a series you can just pick up and play, and I have no idea what they were thinking here — other than “more money.”