When you have a popular franchise, there’s always the risk that it’ll be “run into the ground”, or to the point that the developer runs out of ideas and makes rehashes of levels, or useless add-ons or possibly even tie-ins with other promotional products, like movies. As great as the Angry Birds is, it was running dangerously close to this point, not only with the countless sequels but also with the over-merchandising. Seriously, you can buy stuffed animals now. Thankfully, Rovio has managed to eke its way out of this trap with the release of Angry Birds Space, a game that takes the traditional play method and turns it on its head, thanks to some great new additions.
The goal still remains the same as far as the series is concerned. You’ve got a certain number of birds, each with their own abilities, to clear a stage with, obliterating all the randomly placed pigs in as few turns as possible. However, rather than just taking the usual Angry Birds route and pitting them in outer space scenarios, Rovio has really gone the extra mile with the concept.
For instance, gravity plays a tremendous part here. Each planet seems to have its own gravitational pull, either pushing outward or sucking inward, and you’ll have to adjust your trajectory accordingly, as the birds lean into this gravity, forcing them to change route. Some planets are pretty easy to figure out, while others require you to work out some sort of plan to hit your target. It’s an idea that works really well.
But that’s not all. Along with diabolically designed stages where the environment really plays a part, Rovio also introduces some new birds that are quite useful in later stages. The “ice” bird, for instance, freezes up anything within a short perimeter, while the new “homing” bird can zoom in on a specific point in the stage, provided the player taps it at the right time. Both of these really get the job done, along with the other returning birds. And if you get stuck, you can now call upon the Mighty Eagle, who’s offered free at first but then costs a buck for around 20 uses, however you choose. And you still earn feathers are rewards for using him, instead of stars.
For $.99 (or $2.99 if you’re going the iPad route), Angry Birds Space offers some very good value, with two planetoids and dozens of stages to cover. If you feel like continuing, you can add a dollar more and access a third one, filled with even greater challenges to overcome. It’s a shame it wasn’t originally included, but it could’ve been a lot worse when it comes to pricing.
The gameplay is pure touch screen magic, utilizing the traditional rules of Angry Birds but making the new elements fit in so well. And what’s more, you can probably figure out an alternate solution for each stage, even if it looks like something’s going to work in your favor to start with. This might make you want to try it again, even after you beat it, just to see how you fare.
As for presentation, Rovio sticks with what works. The galaxy design of the game doesn’t go too far overboard on frills, but the level design is top notch and the animations are quite cute. The sound effects aren’t bad, featuring a 2010-like soundtrack that really soothes you and plenty of squawking birds. You know, the Angry Birds stuff.
Have the Angry Birds worn out their welcome? Well, millions of players still get hooked to the series, and something tells us that Angry Birds Space will continue to do the job. But at least this is an excellent sequel, loaded with a great new approach and enough content to make up for the cheap price – and that’s including the additional in-app purchases. Like the gravity on a planet, it’ll certainly draw you in – even when you think you’ve had enough of the Birds.