Love Angry Birds games or hate ‘em, Rovio’s success with the franchise is undeniable. Since the original game’s debut in December of 2009, its creators have seen millions upon millions of downloads head their way on iOS, Android, PC, and Mac platforms alike. And just in case you’ve been living under a rock and have yet to play the game, last year it became available for free online, playable right in your browser. Numerous iterations have entered the series, such as Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons, but to this point all have possessed essentially the same gameplay as the first game: pull back slingshot, fire bird, hit enemy, score points. Levels featured different decorations across games, but needless to say it was all beginning to feel a little stale for some of us. Can the latest addition to the series, Angry Birds Space, stand out on its own well enough to be truly deserving of a play, or will its only claim to fame be riding on the coattails of the first game’s success?
To get right to the point (not that it wouldn’t be obvious anyway) Angry Birds Space plays quite differently as compared to older Angry Birds games. Why are a bunch of birds, pigs, and collections of junk floating around in space? Who knows. But it sure makes for a different kind of game, and yes, it is enjoyable. Rather than have only one force of downward gravity, Space features varying numbers of gravitational hotspots surrounding planets and asteroids, and part of the strategy is for you to anticipate how the different gravitational fields (or lack thereof) will direct your birds and their targets after you’ve hit them. Though seemingly a simple alteration, it completely changes the way you have to think about the game and without a doubt breaths some much needed fresh air into Angry Birds. Also new to the series is the addition of ‘boss battles’, which are actually only slightly different from standard levels, though their presence is a nice touch. Comicbook-like intros and outros to different levels add some extremely loose story to the game which range from cute and clever to downright puzzling. Obviously any story present here is not meant to be taken seriously though, so overall I didn’t find these moments to add or detract from the experience. Angry Birds Space is ultimately still about killing those spare minutes of your day, and it does so creatively.
This was something I really didn’t anticipate to find, but the graphics in Angry Birds Space have taken a rather significant upgrade. Mobile versions may not seem so different, but compared to other PC and Mac editions of Angry Birds, Space stood out as being exceptionally crisp and clear, animations all felt very smooth, and the new physics engine well polished. The only downside here is that the game occupies more RAM due to the upgrades, and I did have some crashing issues on mobile devices that were also running an app or two in the background. Unless you’re using a higher end Android device, you’ll need to ensure other apps are properly closed before launching this one, which isn’t a huge inconvenience, but when you’re talking a 1 minute time killer, spending 30 seconds on purging RAM just to be able to get inside the game isn’t all that practical.
As you should expect from any Angry Birds title, this one has a lot of levels right from the get-go, and as Rovio has been faithful to add more levels for free as time goes on, chances are very high we’re just getting started. With all the changes present in Angry Birds Space, and future support being so promising, the $0.99 price tag for iOS is quite reasonable. The Mac version at $4.99 and the PC version at $5.95, on the other hand, just might be pushing it a little. You do get a lot of content and the best graphics available, but chances are you won’t as habitually play Angry Birds on your laptop or desktop as you will your mobile device. Even at its most expensive point, the price isn’t unreasonable, but I would still recommend you download the demo to see how you like the game before putting your money down. Of course there is also the Android version of the game, which comes with absolutely no price tag at all, so obviously if you own one of these devices, you are best off playing it here.
Angry Birds Space is definitely a worthy title for your smartphone if you are into time-wasters, and stands well on its own amidst other Angry Birds games available. But, at its core, it still is Angry Birds. Whether the game is worth it to you or not depends on how much you will play it. There is a lot of new content here, it’s fun to play, and it looks nice doing it. However, if you got bored with the other games fairly quickly, there’s not a lot here to keep that from happening again. Personally I was surprised at how good the new features were and I can safely say Rovio has successfully pulled back in one wandering player, but I can’t say that because of Space I believe so firmly in the series as to feel it won’t need a major update again very soon. Any fan of Angry Birds, old or current, will love the new game, no doubt about it. People who never were very fond of the series will probably still not be very fond of it, though I would definitely recommend they give it another chance.