Of all the games that have landed in app stores, none has had quite the same cultural impact as "Angry Birds." Since the game's launch in December 2009, it's been downloaded more than 500 million times, spawned multiple spinoffs, and in total, had more than 200,000 years of gameplay. Now, these fuming feathered fowl are slipping the surly bonds of Earth in "Angry Birds Space," the latest iteration of the game by Finnish-based Rovio. But if you've already followed the Angry Birds to Rio and weathered the Seasons with them, is it still worth 99 cents to blast off into the final frontier? Yes.
Angry Birds Space Story
It's hard not to detest these pigs in space when they're wicked enough to take the fight all the way into the cosmos. In the game's introduction, we're shown a giant claw that scoops up a patch of land where the Angry Birds' eggs are perched, and it swiftly disappears into an interstellar wormhole. Needless to say, our irked winged heroes are quick to chase the perpetrators, but unwittingly find themselves in a whole new arena. Now, not only do they have to contend with evil, anti-gravitational pigs, they also have to work out how to launch themselves into the void when their slingshot trajectories have been affected by the different gravity pulls of planets, black holes, stars and more.
Click to EnlargeFortunately for our feathered friends, entering a new galactic dimension means gaining new superpowers, such as the ability to aim certain birds in a different direction mid-flight. Also, a new character called Ice Bird makes his debut, an alien avian creature who can turn anything he touches into solid ice. Other new changes include Lazer Bird, an exclusive Samsung character, and Danger Zone, an exclusive Samsung Angry Birds level.
The retooled physics engine adds a new dimension of fun. Aim too close to a planet, and you're pulled into its orbit (represented by a bubblelike sphere encircling the world). However, you can use the bird's new circuitous path around the planet to your advantage, strategizing new angles of takeoff. But if your estimate of the trajectory is just a few degrees off -- helpful tracer lines illumate your projected path -- your bird will fly off into the abyss of space.
The "how to" aspect of the game is pleasingly familiar. We played "Angry Birds Space" on our Samsung Galaxy Note, and as always, we simply touched the slingshot, slid our finger backward and aimed, then let go to fling the feathered furious to pursue some horrible hogs. Then we tapped midscreen to let loose with the bird's particular special ability. Pinching to zoom in and out of environments as well as swiping to see specific parts of the scene worked well. (If you're also using the Note, we wouldn't recommend toying with pen input--we could never pitch our flapping protagonists accurately that way.)
Click to EnlargeAs we progressed through the game, we encountered plenty of unfamiliar content -- including new space junk--space bubbles, spheres of ice, and sometimes even a rocket ship --that we had to blast our way through. Supposedly, the newest version also has its culmination in the challenge of defeating Space King, a new supervillain who pilots a flying saucer with a big claw (sound familiar?), but we haven't yet progressed far enough into the story to come face to face with him.
"Angry Birds Space" includes impressively detailed scenes paired with a compelling soundtrack that's sure to evoke some suspense (or frustration) in gamers. We appreciated the rich colors and the level of minute care that obviously went into designing the product. Whether we zoomed out to look at the whole picture or zeroed in on a spot to help us work out a better strategy, the graphics on "Angry Birds Space" always stayed sharp, and animation flowed smoothly from frame to frame on our Samsung Galaxy Note. We particularly liked the animation that showed pigs instantly freezing in space when you popped their bubble.
Click to EnlargeIn particular, there was one little Easter egg that we highly appreciated within the game: As we got to the stage of unlocking Eggsteroids, we encountered a bonus level that paid tribute to the classic "Space Invaders" game.
The simplicity and addictiveness of the original Angry Birds is the real reason why the game has been so successful and Rovio remembers to stay true to its strategy in this iteration. At the same time, the new NASA-approved physics engine does wonders to keep "Angry Birds Space" fresh, and we thoroughly enjoyed the game's sumptuous graphics and evocative (if slightly twee) soundtrack. And while Rovio pays homage to timeless games of the past, it's not hard to see that Angry Birds itself is well on its way to being this generation's version of the classic arcade game.