Just like Ratchet & Clank, the Angry Birds series gets a movie and a tie-in game to go with it this summer. As is the case with both franchises, both of the tie-ins are reimaginings of the original games. In Ratchet & Clank’s case, the gameplay was refined and updated while the graphics were vastly improved. With Angry Birds Action, the graphics have undergone a jump from 2D to 3D, and the gameplay is now significantly different from the first game. Is it a positive change, or should it have stayed the same? Long story short, Ratchet & Clank was much more successful with its revitalization.
Longtime developer Rovio Entertainment aims to capitalize on their top franchise’s time in the cinematic spotlight with Angry Birds Action, a flashy Android action game starring the movie versions of the titular characters. Firstly, I feel compelled to mention that the graphics are very good. For a few seconds, I was wondering if they were on par with the movie’s visuals. Phones obviously aren’t capable of that yet, but I was definitely fooled for a bit. Up close, you can tell that the textures aren’t perfect, but the beauty of a cartoony art style is that photorealism is irrelevant if the game looks good in motion, which this does.
Despite being in 3D and based on the movie’s character designs, the birds in Angry Birds Action manage to maintain their goofy charm in terms of how they look and the way they bounce around each level. Upon finishing a stage, as your bird is launched at the final target, the game triggers a slow-motion effect. When this happens, you can admire your bird’s silly face in all its glory as they gleefully complete the objective. This will be different for everyone, but seeing their stupid face always nullifies any frustration that I might have had with the stage.
The stages in Angry Birds Action are played from a 2D perspective, despite what the 3D graphics might lead you to believe. This new entry in the series plays more like a combination of pinball and Monster Strike. If you’ve never played Monster Strike before, you press and hold your character, pull back as if they’re on a slingshot, and let them loose to bounce around the stage like a hockey puck, causing damage to everything that they hit. In this case, you’ll be hitting ice pillars, piles of wood, boulders, and even bumpers (hence the pinball comparison). Some levels require you to simply knock over some eggs while others task you with returning chicks to their nest. These different objectives mix up the gameplay and give you some variety so that you’ll never be doing the exact same thing for too long.
Unfortunately, a lot has changed in the mobile landscape since the original Angry Birds came out, and Angry Birds Action is inferior because of that. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m referring to microtransactions and the dreaded energy systems of modern F2P mobile games. Because these games are meant to be played in small bursts, they’re never a huge problem. However, to incentivize the purchase of gems and whatnot, the levels are designed to get so difficult that beating them without reviving gets increasingly unlikely. As a result, the game gets less enjoyable the further you progress.
All in all, you could do a lot worse than Angry Birds Action. For a movie tie-in, it’s actually enjoyable most of the time. I’m not sure whether I should blame the industry for changing in such a negative way or Rovio for adopting these practices, but the game suffers just the same. As long as you accept the likely possibility that you’ll eventually get fed up with all the microtransactions and gems, this is still a decent way to get your next Angry Birds fix.
Is it Hardcore?
An interesting reimagining of the Angry Birds franchise, but marred by the trappings of modern mobile games.