Game: Angry Birds Trilogy
Developer: Rovio Entertainment
Available on: Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Until a few years ago, Finland’s greatest export was legendary midfield schemer Jari Litmanen, one of the finest midfielders of his generation who was instrumental in helping Louis van Gaal’s excellent young Ajax team lift the UEFA Champions League trophy back in 1995. Oh, and some racing drivers, but that isn’t a real sport. Nowadays, you think of Finland and instantly you are transported into the bizarre world of Angry Birds, a realm where militant avian creatures attempt to catapult themselves into buildings with the aim of destroying the swine within, a technicolour land of cartoon bird-on-pig violence, where another dead hog pile is greeted by a chilling chorus of chattering, Hitchcockian murderers.
Angry Birds is big business. Some may say it has even transcended games. A good gauge of how relevant a fictitious video game character is in accepted society (for me, anyway) is when it begins to appear in those obviously fixed, annoyingly compulsive, crane-grabbing soft toy machines in seaside resorts and bowling alleys. A trip to a local ten-pin establishment recently confirmed that – yes – there are plush Angry Birds to be won. There are Angry Birds t-shirts, soft drinks, a board game, even a theme park. Naturally, even a film is planned. As a result, it has become almost acceptable for so-called “proper gamers” to hate on the Birds. It is, after all, just a throwaway casual game, a joke, right?
That is a very harsh assessment to make, and an ignorant one. For all of the cynical marketing, the fact that Angry Birds sits behind only Facebook and Google Maps as the most downloaded Android app (it is more popular than YouTube, for jiggins sake!) says a lot. People aren’t going to download any old drivel, as much as we may imagine that to be the case. The reason Angry Birds has sold so many millions of units is because it is a fun, funny, accessible, physics based puzzle game that does what it came to do extremely competently; and does so using a set of highly likeable bird characters. It came along at a moment in time when mobile phone gaming was really starting to blow up, and has meant that the boys over at Rovio could probably stop making games right this instant and would still never have to do another day of work in their lives.
That has not deterred the Finnish crew from pushing the Angry Birds franchise forward. There have been five spin-off games – including one from the perspective of the piggies, and a proposed Star Wars tie-in version on the horizon. In the meantime, they have set about porting the original game to just about every format imaginable to mankind. That includes the Xbox 360, the platform for this fine compilation of the first three Angry Birds games.
You lot must know the drill by now. You draw back your bird catapult, and attempt to take out the green pigs on the right of the screen, and as much of whatever structure they are hiding in, in order to maximise your points and earn stars out of a maximum of three. The fewer birds you use, the higher your score. Along the way you gain the use of different bird types, such as a birds who can drop eggs from above, and others that split up into multiple projectiles after a second button press mid-flight. There is plenty of variation on offer, and all of the levels that have been released, downloadable add-ons included, for the Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and movie tie-in Angry Birds Rio. There are over 700 levels to play through, which means that, for a budget package, you are getting ridiculous value for money.
Not being a touch screen device, the Xbox 360 version obviously has some differences. The graphics are fantastic, and the game surely benefits from being on a larger screen; complete in beautiful HD. Bright, colourful and full of Angry Birds charm, it looks ace. It also sounds shockingly good, there are some meaty explosions, and hilarious bird sound effects. Initially I was playing using a high quality Dolby 5.1 headset, and it shocked me how good the game is sonically, even if I did have to remove said headset for fear of going slightly insane after five minutes.
The control scheme on the standard pad works a treat, you can even use a button to instantly restart a level, which is a useful inclusion in a game where you often endeavour for perfection or are going up against a high score. There are leaderboards, which give a great indication of just how good you are at flinging birds. Of course there are Achievements too, and a slightly tweaked implementation of the smart bomb-esque Eagle power up, which can now be used completely at will, with associated rewards for its successful deployment.
It isn’t all good though. Kinect controls have been shoehorned into a game that has no right to be a motion controlled game. It is practically impossible to keep the catapult from shaking, meaning that your accuracy is all to cock. There is also a baffling lack of multiplayer. I wasn’t expecting lobbies and social interaction and all manner of internet bells and whistles, but a bit of two player Vs. mode would have been great, particularly as huddling over or sharing one mobile handset is no longer an issue. As a game that is perfect for families to play together, it was severely disappointing when three of our kids had to take it in turns to play a level each, when they could have been competing with each other, and I would have had another video game excuse to hand their asses to them. Missed opportunity, whichever way you look at it.
VERDICT: The biggest problem of all is that unless you are an Angry Birds obsessive, or simply do not own the necessary handheld device, there isn’t really anything new here to warrant shelling out for a game that costs a fraction of the price elsewhere. However, in the context of things, this is still a cheap Xbox game, given the huge amount of content on the disc. 700 levels is enough to keep anyone going for bloody ages, and the game is fun, simplistic and difficult to hate on.
I will point out at this stage, that up until the morning this game landed on my doorstep, the cultural phenomenon that is Angry Birds had completely passed me by. That is right folks, I had never so much as looked at a bird careering towards a startled pig. I am glad that I finally got a chance to enjoy it after all of these years. Finland, I salute you.