Think Mobile gaming and Angry Birds will be top of the list. The original game showed, that gaming on a mobile device could be fun and rewarding, getting three stars on every level was a gaming test copied by other games like Trials and even later Call of Duty games. The sequel released last week is a different game altogether. Things have drastically changed for the worse.
Angry Birds and all its sequels, spin-offs and crossovers were traditionally reasonably priced games. Latterly the Transformers crossover showed the way of things to come. Freemium games get a bad reputation, however done right they are gold. Think Hearthstone, Fallout Shelter, League of Legends DOTA 2, HOTS and other big free to play games. The one thing they don’t limit is time. The very worst kind of free game, forces you to curtail your playtime behind a pay-wall. Unfortunately the pioneer of mobile gaming as sold its soul for the quick cash.
Seeing Angry Birds 2 as a free game, I knew something would be too good to be true. Start the game up and you soon realise that there are more changes than the price. Levels are now, more complex and multi-tiered. Progress through one section and you are met with the next. These all must be cleared with your starting selection of birds. If this seems harsh, there is a points system which allows you to earn an extra bird if you reach a certain score. While not the simple set-up of the previous games a change was probably overdue.
The levels themselves have had a major makeover. Right from the beginning the advanced physics from the later games in the series are evident. Fans, Balloons, rockets and TNT are all prevalent from the start. The physics on the materials are also much more game influencing. The yellow speedy bird can no longer plough though anything with ease. An ice wall or stone pillar will stop it dead in its tracks. The small blue bird, which splits into three, now tears through ice with ease. The traditional all-rounder the red bird, is the jack of all trades and can get you out of a pinch. The ability to select which one you fire, should provide you with the advantage, however too often I was only able to select an inappropriate bird before the correct one showed up. What could be forgiven as tactics, now feels like a cheap ploy to get you to spend some in-game currency or watch an advert to continue. This plays right into the freemium model with the introduction of the in-game currency of gems and the new spells. Golden ducks can rain from the sky, a freeze bomb turns every block to ice and a chilli pepper sets fire to a random pig. You get given a generous amount of these as you go on, but it doesn’t take long for convoluted levels to wear these away, then you are left with either using up some gems or watching the videos. All of this rubs you up the wrong way, especially as Angry Birds had a decent reputation amongst most gamers.
The structure of having a set number of levels before moving on to the next is also gone. What this is replaced by is a Candy Crush Saga, style of meander through a world. You go up levels in numerical order before facing a boss pig after 10. While not disastrous in its own way it ruins the dream of completionists. Before you could go for a three star run on every level, restarting if you knew it was going badly. This turned into a meta game in itself, forcing you to get the perfect shot away, find the secret eggs and all the other joys of the originals. Now any restart costs you one of your five lives. Run out and you either wait a few hours or pay the currency or real money to carry on. This above any other change, takes the game from a credible mobile game to the same shovel-ware that Candy Crush and others are. There will be no more battery sapping sessions of Angry Birds, now the longest you can seriously play for is around 45 minutes at a time. Risk any more and you will be handicapped the next time you go to play.
What makes all of this worse, is the excellent core game. The new arena mode, pitches you against other players to see who can make their starting birds last the longest, is a nice change of pace. Like everything else, you get one free go before having to pay each day. The animation and graphics are a big improvement. Pigs and debris fly towards the screen and get blown in realistic directions by the fans and other level elements while the satisfaction of a well planned or fluke shot is as satisfying as ever. Unfortunately the longevity of the game is artificial due to the new base model. Where before you knew how far you were from the next set of levels, and waited for every update with joy, Now you seem to be on an endless path, only enlightened by the occasional boss fight and comparison with facebook friends.
As a lunchtime distraction the game is fine, as a serious mobile game, it is well short of its illustrious predecessors.
Although I like the idea of freemium games, I often wished in the past when I was yet again stopped by lack of time or in game currency, that they would release the same game with a price too: to just pay up and then get unlimited access!
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