Angry Birds Go review: Rovio spins out and crashes into the paywall

Rovio is back, Angry Birds is back, and this time things are a little different. We've still got birds, we've still got green pigs and we've still got catapults, but this is no regular Angry Birds game. This time around, Rovio has gone all Mario Kart on us.

Angry Birds Go! is a free-to-play kart racer that sees our favorite feathered friends hit the race track instead of the skies. It's also a free-to-play title, which means there are ads, and there are in-app purchases. So, has Rovio taken the checkered flag for the win, or spun out and hit the paywall? Lets find out.

The biggest change visually is the move from 2D to 3D, yet even with this the graphics retain a definite sense of the Angry Birds universe to them. Everything is bold, bright and colorful, and a joy to look at.

The gameplay while now following a different style to the other Angry Birds titles, still retains a similar structure. Progression through the game is still level based, and only when you've completed certain levels and overcome certain challenges can you move on to new tracks, and tougher opponents. The sad truth though is that this becomes tedious quite quickly. You find yourself having to replay the same tracks over and over and over again to fulfil different challenges before you're able to properly progress.

Actually out on the race track, the controls are simple and responsive. You're presented two different options; tilt and touch. Both are pretty self-explanatory, and both are as responsive as each other. As you might imagine the karts handle in a very cartoonish fashion with drifts and jumps aplenty, but there's absolutely no throttle. Think of these more like soap-box karts; you start at the top of the hill – in a slingshot – and get to the bottom as quick as you can.

There are ways and means of going faster though, such as the booster pads you'll find throughout the circuits, or by using your power-ups, which have a unique flavor to them depending on which character you're currently playing as. You only get one power-up per race early on though, and even when you do unlock the ability to use it multiple times, the more you use it the more in-game currency you need to hand over.

So, it's a fun if slightly tedious game to play. But the single biggest issue this game faces is the paywall. You can avoid it, sure, but Rovio makes it as tough to climb as possible.

Take upgrades for example. As you progress through the game your karts will need to meet a certain standard – displayed as CC – to enter races and challenges. The only way to keep up with this is to keep upgrading your kart, and upgrading takes coins. If you haven't collected enough, you're left with no choice but to cough up. This in turn then hampers your actual in-race performance, as too often you'll be concentrating more on collecting the coins than winning the races.

And all that is without coming on to the cost of some of the upgraded karts. No Angry Birds game in existence should have a $49.99 in-app purchase available. For a brand we've lived with for some years now – that has provided good quality, low cost mobile gaming – asking someone to pay the price of a new console game for an in-app purchase is scandalous. There's no other way of putting it. Especially when you consider how many kids will be playing this.

It gets worse too; the price of the new karts isn't displayed in the in-game store; you're not told until you've entered Touch ID or your iTunes password and asked to confirm how much it is you're handing over. Not good enough Rovio, not good enough by a long stretch, especially with some of the prices as high as they are.

Away from the karts, your birds get tired. OK, real racers get tired too, but once you're out of energy, you either wait a varying length of time to play again or pay up with in-game currency. It feels like nickel-and-diming at its very worst. The advertising in the game doesn't offend at all in comparison.

The good

  • Looks great
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Simple, responsive controls

The bad

  • The paywall, it's everywhere and you feel constantly nickel-and-dimed
  • In-app purchase prices are hidden until the confirmation step
  • In-app purchase prices go from reasonable to ridiculous
  • Tedious progression ladder

The bottom line

I wanted to love Angry Birds Go, but I can't. I feel let down by Rovio. The famous franchise has reached a level of out-and-out greed, and you can't play this game without feeling like your wallet is more important than the experience you're having. It's such a shame, because underneath there's a fun game, but it's a fun game where folks will get rightfully tired of having to pay up or compromise. This should have been so much more.

Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy. Follow him on Twitter and Google+

  • If I were to write a review for Rovio's latest offering... This is it. I tried to enjoy this game. The AI doesn't feel annoying or cheap and it just looks and sounds fun. I was curious about the Double Coins bonus IAP, but was completely floored that I could never find the price of it until I logged into my Apple ID account. I was stunned even more by the high price tag for such a small IAP.
    ... I'm not going to rehash everything you already said in my comments, but it is worth noting that about 3 to 4 hours after I downloaded AB Go to my phone I had deleted the app.
    C'est la vie, I suppose. Sent from the iMore App
  • The prices are ridiculously high, similar to EA's pricing on tapped out. However the thing I miss given this was billed as a Mario clone is actually racing for a championship. The events are dull and the tracks too wide and bumpy. I'm still playing but less and less and it's only been out a few days.
  • Mario Kart on the iPhone would be so dope.
  • If you want to play emulated picked the wrong OS.
  • I've quite enjoyed it and am willing to deal with not playing while not paying. WHat is about to drive me to delete it off my phone is the multiple crash bugs. I have yet to finish a race today. Heck, I barely got into a single race and crashed before the first set of coins. I crashed 3 times in a row looking at the Nerf ad and 4 times in a row defeating the bomber bird (losing my progress I might add). If these crashes don't go away, the app will. iPhone 4S, BTW.
  • These in-app purchases are starting to become annoying and ridiculous. I stop buying apps if I has listed in app purchases. I rather be charged a premium price and not have to worry about the nickel and dime approach with the in-app purchases. Sent from the iMore App
  • I do too ... and it's one reason why I'm glad Apple added this in the game header. I'd much rather support a game like Knights of the Old Republic. On a side not, I did download AB:Go, but refuse to buy any of the $$ add-ons.
  • I'm in the same camp. The only place I care to suffer IAPs, really, is when you download a demo app w/an IAP to the full version. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've downloaded it but I refuse to pay for anything in these 'in-app purchase' games. It's a killer in the gaming industry. I would have rather paid $10 for a complete game.
  • Glad I read this I was about to download it. Me an Rivio don't get along well anyways back in my webOS days I paid for Angry Birds then they stopped supporting us with updates we were left behind way before the platform itself stopped its own support Sent from the iMore App
  • That's because WebOS itself is not supported by anyone, because it sucks.
  • Ironically, I believe that it sucked because "no-one" supported it. I saw WebOS as something that could've worked and was originally waiting for Docs2Go. It sucked as you say because of the phones it was put into.
  • That's really your fault for picking a DOA OS.
  • I do like the game, but the IAP are too much and nearly ruin it for me completely. I still play it, but it got a one star review from me because of the insane in app purchases.
  • A good game,but: Hopefully, they will lower the IAP pricing structure if enough people contact them about it.
  • +1 on the "tired of nickel and diming" us for every little thing. Wish they would have like a $4.99 or $9.99 option to remove ads and removing the IAP options. Yes, I would pay for a quality app to remove the IAP options.
  • Ads AND purchases? Wow! That's a winning combination, where do I sign up? Man, I can't wait for next year when we have to buy the game, and still have to deal with ads and purchases. So, um... what happened? Rovio used to not suck, but this is veering full on into crapware territory. I guess they decided they had enough of success and wanted to commit corporate suicide. SO SMOOTH LIKE BUTTA
  • It tires so fast having to wait 20 minutes for my two birds to be fully rested. They can only run 5 times each but to advance in the game requires repeating the same track over 20 times (not counting any loses).