Reviewed: April 4, 2010
Released: April 1, 2010
App Store Price: $4.99
I was a huge fan of Angry Birds when it orignally launched for my iPhone a few months ago, so when I heard it was launching with the new iPad I was pretty excited. Those wacky kamikaze birds and thieving pigs are back and bigger than ever in Angry Birds HD, one of the cutest and cleverest puzzle games currently available on the iPad and one of the best physics games I’ve played since Boom Blox for the Wii.
Assuming you’ve played or at least know of Boom Blox, that is a pretty good point of reference to base the gameplay description. In Boom Blox you “throw” a projectile at a stacked group of blocks composed of various elements and arranged in unique structures not unlike a Jenga tower. Realistic physics and a lot of chaos theory would create infinite potential in knocking down these structures. It’s not much different in Angry Birds.
But before I get ahead of myself I should probably setup the story, not that you need an excuse to chuck birds at pigs hiding in crazy structures. Green pigs are stealing the birds’ eggs and the birds are ready for revenge. Over the course of 63 levels you will launch a variety of colored birds, each with their own unique attributes, at a group of pigs hiding inside makeshift structures built from stone, wood, and glass. The goal is simple. Destroy all the pigs using the birds allowed you for each level. The fewer birds and the more collateral damage you do in the process, the higher your score and your star ranking.
The progression of difficulty is pretty smooth and as the game advances you are given new birds to work with, often with secondary post-launch attacks. But the first thing to get a grip on is the slingshot used to launch the birds. Not only do you control the angle of attack, you also have to pull back to judge the velocity and distance. There is often a lot of trial and error, especially if you are going for a 3-star ranking, but each level only takes 1-2 minutes at the most and you can quick-restart a level at anytime. The added screen size of the iPad certainly allows for much more precise aiming and power.
Once you master firing a bird you then have to become skilled at dropping exploding egg bombs, tapping the screen for a burst of destructive speed, or tapping to turn one tiny blue bird into multiple reentry “missiles”. You even have suicide birds that will explode with a secondary tap. Physics play a huge role in this game. The various wood, glass, and stone components all have their vulnerability to certain birds. A little bit of structural design knowledge might help you in knowing which section of a structure to attack to bring the whole thing crashing to the ground. The pigs hiding inside will usually get crushed in the falling debris, but some wear helmets and require direct hits or nearby explosions.
The levels are so cleverly designed and the predetermined choice of birds you have and the order in which you must launch them requires a lot of planning and strategy. If you have wood over glass and your blue birds are in the middle of your firing order you will want to clear the wood away with a yellow or red bird thus exposing the glass for when the blue bird is ready to launch. The strategies are as endless as the gameplay potential. It took me about four hours to beat the game but I still have plenty of levels I haven’t 3-starred and those are going to take me weeks, perhaps months to master, but I will because this is the perfect mobile game designed for impromptu spurts of gaming insanity.
The presentation is totally charming with cute cutscenes to open the story then a slick menu that allows you access to any of the three tiers of levels or the individual stages in each tier. Each puzzle also indicates your best star rating to date so you know where to go back and perfect your game. The in-game graphics are equally as delightful with ugly (but cute) green pigs lurking in their structures and colorfully rendered birds to the far left that you will be launching. The flight animations are simple yet effective and a dotted line shows the trajectory of your last shot – useful for zoning in on a target.
The audio really enhances the experience with a light ditty with a bit of military flavor for the opening splash screen and menus. Once in the game you get the overlapping sounds of the various birds in your firing line – each bird has a unique sound, so when played in unison it sounds like a noisy flock of crows in a cornfield. Impact sounds are unique for each element such as splintering wood, crumbling stone, or shattering glass, and then you have the evil laugh of the pigs when you fire a bird and they survive. This is great stuff.
While there is quite a bit of strategy involved in Angry Birds there is just as much luck, or what I like to call chaos theory. I can fire the same bird into the same impact zone multiple times and the results will always be unique due to the elaborate physics and slight variance in my launch angle and strength. Sometimes I would try a certain level dozens of times and fail to complete it then for no apparent reason I would get this magical shot that would bring down the entire building and I would 3-star the level, so a bit of patience is also required to play Angry Birds.
Angry Birds HD is a delight to play, watch, and listen to, and there is endless replay potential for mastering the 60+ levels. My only observation and complaint is the steep introductory price of $4.99 - nearly five times the cost of the iPhone version for no substantial update or exclusive content. This is purely an HD video update with an increase in screen size to support the native resolution of the iPad. It looks amazing but there just seems to be some week one price gouging going on here.