When I first got my smartphone, I held out on the Angry Birds craze. I didn’t understand its appeal or why I’d want to waste my time with a little mobile game when I could be playing the newest Uncharted game. As I spent more time on my smartphone, I decided giving the series a shot probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Much like Tetris on my calculator in high school, I soon couldn’t go without at least one Angry Birds on my phone. Having played (not always to completion) the original all the way to Space, my feelings were mixed upon the Star Wars edition’s announcement. Could they do my favorite franchise justice while still making a solid Angry Birds game? Would this be the mobile game fans had been looking for? Would there be Wookiees? Find out all these answers and more as I run down the reasons Angry Birds Star Wars is the best of the series.
My fears for this crossover started with the plush toy line, the ball shaped waist costumes, and the other merchandising efforts first appearing as rumors swirled. It all screamed “cash-grab!” and I wasn’t particularly enthused. That fear was laid to rest once I booted up the game and saw the developers at Rovio handled the Angry Birds-ifing of Star Wars with love and respect. Everything, from the music to the characters, is both AB and SW, and they fit together like a well-oiled contraption.
Beginning on Tatooine, the story (if you can call it that) rather roughly follows the films. There are a handful of comic panel cutscenes that recreate famous moments, which are both funny and neat, but they’re underutilized. Also, and I don’t know if I missed this in previous iterations, but there’s an actual sense of progression. The backgrounds represent new areas, like moving from the Jundland Wastes to Mos Eisely or being inside the Death Star’s docking bay to flying down the trench run. In a series where progression doesn’t really matter, this was a great little inclusion most people will miss. In the end, you don’t really play an AB game for the story, so its lack here is foforgivable because the gameplay is what really matters.
Everything starts off simple, with poor little Red Bird Luke blindly launching himself into danger without any real powers or purpose. He quickly meets Old Ben Bomb Bird Kenobi (say that five times fast), who gives Luke a lightsaber. Now the simple swipe of the screen causes the red bird to ignite his blade, cutting through material or Imperial/Sandpeople Piggies. The Kenobi bird has a Force push, which you direct, instead of random explosions in the other iterations, making him a rather powerful character. These two characters alone feel overpowering, but the levels increase in difficultly accordingly.
Combining the series usual physic puzzles with the gravity based gameplay of Angry Birds Space, there’s tons of variety in levels and their difficulty. You’ll never feel like you’re playing the same level twice (unless you’re replaying levels!) and frustration will set in from time to time thanks to the physics. As usual, obtaining three stars in any given level will either be the most time consuming part of this game or the least, depending on how much you care about that sort of thing.
The newest and most interesting thing to be added to the AB formula is a heavier emphasis on strategy. The inclusion of blaster toting Pigtroopers or gun emplacements brings an interesting timing element into play. On top of that, with the accuracy of Han Bird Solo’s three shot blaster or Chewbirdcca’s (I’m making up all their names right now, fyi) immense strength, all the character powers add a huge level of strategy not seen before in an AB game. Do I use Han to blast down those large metal pieces or have him go straight at the biggest structure? Should Kenobi blast these materials or should I let Luke cut through? Later levels include a Darth Vader pig, who holds structures up with the Force. Do you take him out to drop those materials right away or do you wait till the end? Answering these questions makes each level into a chess match of sorts, instead of random slinging (which can still work, from time to time).
There’s so much slinging in fact, there’s a chance your fingers will be exhausted long before your battery dies. At launch, there are 90 levels, 80 being from Tatooine and the Death Star, while the rest are bonus levels that include finding the hidden golden eggs in the main levels. If that’s not enough, Hoth is already being teased as the next upcoming free expansion. Being an Android phone owner, I was able to download the game for free, with ads of course, but a whole block of levels is already a Day One purchase. Mind you, it’s only $1.99, but this is the first game in the series where putting up with ads wasn’t enough to get the whole game free. I’m not complaining, but others are, since even people who’ve bought the HD ($2.99) or ad-free non-HD ($.99) have to still pay for the Path of the Jedi levels. Where I felt the merchandising was a “cash-grab,” the Path of the Jedi level purchasing scheme has replaced that. Also, buying Millennium Falcons, the replacement for the series Eagle character, is also more costly than previous iterations, so if going after all those Eagle/Falcon medals was your usual MO, you might want to skip that here.
Putting pricing oddities aside, there’s not much else to say about Angry Birds Star Wars other than that you should go download it. Whether you’re a diehard fan or never played one before, you’ll get the best of the entire Angry Birds series all wrapped up in Star Wars. And if you’re a Star Wars fan looking for a mobile game or have been sitting on the fence about this one, hop in and enjoy the ride. Because who hasn’t always dreamed of tapping a screen to watch C-3PO explode into tiny little pieces?
+ Crossover works
+ Great level variety
+ New Bird powers
– Pricing oddities
– Physics can bring frustration
Update 6/17/14: This review was originally posted November 10th, 2012. Since then, there have been numerous updates to this app, including new characters like a Lando bird, increased powers for nearly all the birds, 3 or more new packs of levels, more microtransaction power-ups than you can shake your credit card at, and more bonus levels. By now, you’ve probably already downloaded and have played this ABSW and experienced all the new content…or you’ve moved on to ABSWII. While I do enjoy the second one better, there’s so much content here it’s still easy to recommend downloading this one.
Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth.
This review is based on the Android version of the game. It was developed by Rovio and is available also on Windows phones, iOS, Macs, and Windows 8 PCs.