After a few weeks of teasers, Rovio has finally released the next iteration in their Angry Birds franchise, this time with a focus on the classic Star Wars brand. Recognizable settings such as Tatooine, Degobah, and Hoth make an appearance, not to mention all of the birds are dressed up as characters from the movies, each with their own signature special abilities.
The controls will be familiar for anybody that has put time into an Angry Birds game. Players have to drag back birds in a sling shot, adjust angle and force, and release in order to topple buildings and clear each level of pigs scattered throughout. Bonus points are awarded based on how few birds are used as well as how much destruction is caused, with a finally tally awarded out of three stars. Each bird has their own unique abilities, which are usually activated with a tap while the birds are mid-flight.
The red bird is able to spin with a lightsaber, taking down structures and deflecting fire from Stormpiggies. The yellow bird is donning Han Solo's appearance, and can open up blaster fire over the course of his trajectory, while the
black bird Obi-wan Kenobi can use The Force to push objects away from him. R2-D2 and C3-PO look similar to the egg-dropping bird in the old Angry Birds games, though they're entirely separate now. R2-D2 can electrocute enemies nearby, while C3-PO explodes into a bunch of damaging pieces. The pink bird is dressed up as Princess Leia, who has a laser-firing ability similar to Han's (though a bit more focused).
The only complaint I have about the controls is that the camera automatically pans at the beginning of a stage. If you notch a bird too early, this puts the slingshot out of frame and can cause you to fire a birds backwards, which is just a little frustrating if you've burned up an Angry Falcon.
It's hard to say if the gameplay is still fun at this point. We all know the spiel, and though Rovio has done some interesting twists in the past and are throwing in some new abilities to play with in this go-around, it's the same core mechanic we've been playing for years. The first handful of stages haven't proven to be much of a challenge, but if memory serves, later stages can get quite tricky, especially if the goal is to get three stars.
In-app purchases are employed in a familiar scheme. Players can shell out $1.99 for 20 Mighty Falcons which, as you might expect, summon strafing runs from an orbiting Millennium Falcon. For an extra $1.99, players can unlock 40 levels on the Degboah system, where Luke Skywalker first started his Jedi training in earnest. Many of the missions take a page out of the Angry Birds Space playbook, which makes perfectly good sense. The zero-gravity levels feature lots of cool twists on the old mechanic.
The next update to Angry Birds Star Wars will feature levels on Hoth, leaving players with Tattooine, the Death Star, and ten bonus levels are unlocked individually - 90 levels all told. . Depending how long it takes for the Hoth update to come out, Angry Birds fans will likely have enough to chew on for now, especially if they're gunning for three-starring the whole lot. Generally speaking, Rovio is pretty good with the free content updates, so if you're able to sit tight for awhile (maybe by catching up with the other Angry Birds games), no doubt you'll have more Star Wars fun soon.
The audio is particularly interesting because it's such a mash-up of extremely familiar effects and music. Hearing a the Star Wars theme, still full of orchestral polish, but with a slightly off-kilter, goofy tilt is an interesting experience to say the least. The hollow speaker-borne voices of Stormtroopers are a lot less menacing when they're relaying pig oinks and snorts. The blaster fire sound will immediately cause pangs of nostalgia for those that lived through the Star Wars hay-day.
Although the graphics are still as 2D as ever, there's a nice foreground and background perspective effects, and all of the textures are sharp and well-done. With cache, you'll have under 150 MB of storage gobbled up by Angry Birds Star Wars. Levels are interspersed with comic-style Angry Birds versions of Star Wars events, which are always good for a chuckle.
The bottom line
The cross-licensing going on here may be a bit too much brand whoring for some, but if Star Wars and Angry Birds have anything in common, it's that they still have hardcore fans after being merchandised to hell and back. Even for those of us that are jaded with either family, Angry Birds Star Wars maintains the undeniable charm that Rovio has become well-known for.
If you're absolutely dying to play, $0.99 isn't a lot to ask, and the truly hardcore won't bat an eyelash about spending another $1.99 for Dagobah right away, but personally, I've played enough Angry Birds that waiting for a $0.99 drop and the Hoth content update seems more reasonable. Unfortunately, the game isn't universal, so you'll have to shell out another $0.99 for the full iPhone version, but at least there are a few free versions available to try things out too.