Angry Birds Review: Birding Down the House

Nearly any child could tell you, piggies love to build things. But while piggies have the passion, they lack the skill. You see, a wolf can blow down most piggies houses in a matter of moments. And if one lone wolf can do that, just imagine the potential damage could be done by flocks of Angry Birds!

And so you’d think the piggies would do their best not to invite the birds’ wrath, but piggies ain’t smart. Not the green ones, anyway. This is a case of the green ham wanting to eat the eggs, and the birds are campaigning to get them back. Thus begins‘s Angry Birds, a physics-based game of exploding fowl, unsound construction and wicked, green piggies.

Each stage consists of a number of piggies taking refuge amongst unsound structures, your goal being to bring the buildings down upon their unsuspecting heads. To do this, in each stage you are issued a large slingshot and a limited number of birds to use as projectiles. As you progress through the game, the birds will come with various special abilities such as splitting into three mid-flight, exploding or dropping explosive eggs as they pass overhead. Using your birds, knock bricks, boards and windows down on a piggie or score a direct hit and watch him disappear in a puff of bacon-scented smoke. Eliminate all of the piggies in 63 levels to retrieve the stolen eggs, and calm to rage of the birdies.


Presentation: Angry Birds is very well-designed. The visuals are as fun as they are charming. The birds and piggies have great character, and the stages — taking place in three distinct worlds — look great. The game makes great use of sound as well, the birds hooting and hollering all the while, obviously having a great time bombarding the piggies in their homes.

Menus: The in-game menus are easy to use and very responsive. The level restart command can be easily accessed at a moment’s notice with two taps, and that’s perfect, as you will hitting restart probably more than anything else in the game.

Birds and Pigs: The birds are fairly hilarious, and the different types provide a lot of interesting possibilities. I don’t think the game plays to its highest potential (see below), but the birds are pretty cool. The pigs also come in several different types, and manage to entertain. When you fail a level, they break into a grin. It’s a taunting, and it makes you want to wipe that grin right off their faces next round.


The Physics: Unfortunately, Angry Birds is a physics-based game with highly questionable physics. The game offers moments of great fun, but at least as many moments of total frustration because of the broken physics model. Often times, your success has little to do with strategy or skill, and more to do with plain dumb luck. Other times, there is no success to be had, as you will find your best efforts thwarted by wonky physics on a near constant basis.

As often as not, your best efforts will result in the piggies being buried safely beneath a pile of rubble so thick they just can’t be hit, leaving you no choice but to restart the stage. Several levels seem to be setup so that you can trigger piggie-destroying chain reactions, but mostly the chain reactions don’t work. Pieces fly in the wrong direction, or don’t go as far as they’re supposed to; the machine comes to a halt midway through the process.

You will restart stages constantly, and will rarely vary your strategy between attempts. Instead, it’s usually a matter of restarting constantly, playing the same strategy, and waiting for luck to fall on your side and the buildings to fall on the piggies. Many times did I find myself turning the game off just because I was sick of playing the same level for the umpteenth time with no measure of success, and not because I was playing badly, but just because the physics weren’t working.

Lost Potential: In each stage of the game, you will receive a prescribed allotment of birds which must be fired in dictated order. Because the number, type and order of birds are dictated by the game, there’s much lost potential for strategy. If the game would allow you to choose the order in which to launch your birds, it would allow for much greater variation, experimentation and strategy in play. But it’s not to be, and so stages can play out only one way, and that’s just it.

Angry Birds has a lot going for it, but is fundamentally flawed in execution. The developers missed a wonderful opportunity for creating variable strategies by not allowing you to choose your batting order for the birds, and the very basis of the game — the physics — just don’t work as well as they need to. The game gets everything else right, but the one thing it gets wrong just happens to be one of the most important aspects of the game. Still, at $0.99 Angry Birds is a worthwhile casual title. You will put the game down in frustration when you’ve failed a stage for the twenty-fifth time for no apparent reason, but good odds you’ll come back to it, and eventually you will succeed.

Angry Birds is developed by and is presently available at the introductory price of $0.99, after which is will rise to $1.99. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.

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