Some things are just common sense: red lights mean stop, 1 plus 1 equals 2, space is unfathomably large, and there was always going to be a sequel to the first collaboration between Angry Birds and Star Wars. With not even a whole year separating the release of the original from the new one, Angry Birds Star Wars II, developed by Rovio Entertainment, has been unleashed upon the world. And while some of it reminds me of a line from the movie Spaceballs, “…we’ll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money,” the rest of it is simply amazing. So amazing in fact, I have to adjust my review of the first one to say, “The second best Angry Birds game behind the one, the only ABSWII.”
There’s no real point going in-depth over the gameplay formula we should all know by now: launch birds (and now pigs) towards their enemies in puzzle-like levels in an attempt to get the highest score possible. Throughout the iterations and years Rovio has added different mechanics to it like gravity bubbles, the vacuum of space, and most recently underwater(!), but the basics of it haven’t changed a bit. Despite the lack of change in concept, somehow it’s even more fun in ABSWII than ever before.
The best reason for why it’s so fun is all the new abilities from the largest cast of playable characters ever in the series. The number of characters has grown because, for the first time ever, you can play as the pigs by playing the Pork Side. There’s still 40 levels per area, but it’s split between the Pork and the Bird Side which both have a cast of mostly unique characters. Now, instead of playing 40 levels with largely the same cast, you get 40 with double the amount of flingable characters and that’s where the genius of ABSWII really hits you. There’s just simply some great variety due to the new characters/abilities. It’s not even far-fetched for me to say you’ll enjoy your time the most playing as none other than Jar-Jar Binks.
The idea of Jar-Jar and fun being in the same sentence is usually always followed by some type of heinous act against said character. In ABSWII, you’ll learn to love him as if you were 9 years old when Episode I first came out. Jar-Jar’s tongue latches onto any surface, which he then swings from until you swipe a finger and unleash him against unsuspecting pigs. It’s easily one of the greatest new skills to master and pays off in big dividends if used correctly. Other new, intriguing, and different abilities include Emperor Palpatine’s Force Lightning, Jango Fett’s rocket pack, and a podracer propelled Anakin Skywalker.
Though the 30+ character count does have repeats, even a few of the repeats manage to have variety. For instance, both Yoda and the Droideka randomly bounce around at a swipe of your finger, but the way they bounce is just slightly different. And at the end of their spins, one explodes into ballistic pieces (like C-3PO) and other carries on his last known trajectory. On the flipside, both Mace Windu and Count Dooku are just carbon-copies, but due to the shear amount of new characters and different skills it’s not as noticeable as I once feared. You’ll be having too much (you guessed it!) fun to care, quite honestly.
As mentioned earlier, underwater levels have been added to the mix. Being underwater means the birds or pigs float upwards, as do any other object, as long as they are outside of air bubbles (much like the gravity bubbles). These levels are only unlocked by scoring a set amount of points with each character, the progress of which is shown after completing each level. I really hope they’re will be more underwater levels because they offer a whole new puzzle to ponder and offer some of the most challenging puzzles to date.
However, the part you’ll puzzle about the most in ABSWII is the micro-transactions. While the paywall for a handful of levels and the confusing pricing options implemented for ABSW aren’t present here, there is a much more head scratching scheme at work. Micro-transactions rear their ugly head, allowing you to buy any character to drop into your level at any time, whether it’s 10, 20, 100, or an unlimited amount of them. It would be foolish to even buy just a 10 pack more than once, as it’ll add up past the near $10 asking price for an unlimited amount for some characters. Considering there are 30+ characters, you don’t have to be strong with math skills to see how much money that’ll be. You’ll gain in-game credits by completing challenges, enough to buy a few characters if you’re so inclined, but actually putting money down for credits just seems like a waste. Heck, there’s an option to buy 15,000 credits, which is $99.99! If you have the money to spare, go right ahead, but that’s simply astonishing that someone might actually want to buy that much. And if the in-app purchases weren’t enough, don’t forget about the Telepods line.
With the Telepods, you get to put characters in levels whenever it pleases you and you get cute little figurines to boot. Telepod packs run from a simple two pack of characters to elaborate sets, with the former running at $2.99. This is the cheaper option if you want, say, Emperor Palpatine for unlimited usage in any level instead of the almost $10 in-app purchase. However, buyers beware: check the compatible devices list before going out and buying the packs. My Moto X isn’t on the list, and I foolishly got a pack before I checked, but it’s only probable that more devices will be added. Well, if they really want more people to buy them, they certainly should. Otherwise these Telepods are either going to be bought for a collectors line by Steve Sansweet or because your kids won’t stop screaming at you till you get one.
At launch there are already 100+ levels for ABSWII, and if the fact that ABSW was updated last week with more levels is any indication for the support these titles receive, get ready to be playing this one for a long time. And outside of getting three stars on every level, there are hidden boxes to smash to unlock a special achievement and in-game credits, the aforementioned character bonus levels, secret levels off the beaten path, and tiered challenges to gain rewards. Whether or not you’ll fork over any cash for ABSWII outside of purchasing the app (if it’s not available free or you’re not patient enough to look for the free version), there’s no better time to join the Angry Birds bandwagon. Rovio is at the top of their game right now and Star Wars just so happens to be along for the ride. And did I mention “Duel of the Fates” gets an accordion re-make?
+ New abilities
+ Pork vs Bird side
+ Underwater levels
+ “Duel of the Fates” on an accordion
– Limited device compatibility for Telepods
Update 6/17/14: Unfortunately, since its initial release (and my review on September 20, 2013) the ads have become as obtrusive as ever. And the microtransactions have only gotten more pervasive, as even at start up now you have a Carbonite unlock, where you can unmelt it and see your reward 3 different ways: watch an ad, pay some in-game credits, or wait 8 hours. And, from what I can tell, the compatibility for Telepods hasn’t changed much, if at all, since this first released back in September. But, if you can look past all the new ad focus, know there’s tons of content still left that you can appreciate without paying a dime. And, since they’re still updating the first game and that came out almost two years ago, expect to be treated to more levels and content for a long time with ABSWII.
Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth.
Video Game Review: Angry Birds Star Wars