We presume you’ve played Angry Birds before? If not, check out the review of the original Angry Birds port which launched on PSN in 2011 for an understanding of the basic mechanics.
Dressing a cartoon pig up as a storm trooper and putting a lightsaber in between its trotters while blasting out the fist-pumpingly brilliant ‘Imperial March’ tune, isn’t enough to distract from the fact that gameplay in Angry Birds Star Wars is still all about slinging irate-looking birds at the bloated bonces of ugly green porkers.
Nevertheless, it’s a formula that has set developer Rovio Entertainment on the path to massive success with a series that has appeared on multiple platforms and been played by millions of casual gamers across the globe. And, if Team 17 and its Worms franchise can dine out on the same gameplay for the last 15 years, why shouldn’t Rovio milk it when it has a fairly new formula that works? The old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’ springs to mind.
Well, as it turns out Angry Birds: Star Wars, despite its familiarity, is a very pleasant surprise. Yes, core gameplay still involves catapulting birds in the air at a variety of angles to destroy pigs who have barricaded themselves around a variety of elaborate structures made of various tough materials, but it does so with a great deal of style and in a way that revitalizes the familiar gameplay somewhat. In fact, the Star Wars universe has given Rovio some excellent source material from which to draw inspiration from, and it’s done well to create new bird-chucking strategies for fans of the franchise, as well as deliver some unique levels that are well worth a look. Consequently, fans of Angry Birds shouldn’t be disappointed.
Progression and scoring in Angry Birds Start Wars is identical to previous games with players working through levels until they unlock the next world, earning a star rating (up to three stars) at the end of each stage for their performance, while gaining points for smashing down structures with the least amount of birds possible. From the sandy deserts of Tattoine to the gravity-defying Death Star levels set in outer space, each world is based on familiar places from a galaxy far, far away. So, players can look forward to slinging birds across the desolate ice world of Hoth and the gas mining colony of Cloud City while enjoying the likes of Boba Fett-inspired stages and bonus levels that weren’t available in earlier versions of the game.
In between levels, players get treated to some amusing cartoons of pigs and birds re-enacting famous scenes from the Star Wars movies. Though there’s no voice-acting or text to read while viewing these scenes, the inanimate cartoon drawings have been etched with skill and handled with humour; after all, you can’t take a bunch of animals sitting in the infamous canteena dressed up in various film-inspired costumes seriously. Indeed, Rovio has really done justice to the Star Wars franchise by taking popular themes from the blockbuster I.P. and using them to good effect throughout each level.
For example, Cloud City, the home of Han Solo’s good friend, Lando Calrissian, features gas-emitting, suspended platforms powered by fans that can be used to propel your bird to another platform. The Death Star levels are set in space with anti-gravity fields that can pull the birds in different directions, sometimes sending you loop-the-loop around a planet. In the Path Of the Jedi world, you can cut through vines with a lightsaber and send the heads of pigs toppling onto structures below. The seven worlds all offer something a little different and the license has been used cleverly to broaden the traditional Angry Birds experience with more complex level design that gives players even more to think about.
This new level of strategy also comes into play with the various bird types on offer, as well as the pigs that you’re attempting to kill. Though you start off with a simple red bird who you fling across the screen like a cannonball, you soon unlock more powerful missiles that have a unique Star Wars twist. Soon, you’ll be using the likes of Obi-Wan’s force to provide some extra power to knock over objects and smash through tougher materials. Or the lightsaber of a Jedi Knight to cut through structures and redirect laser beams that can be sent your way by Storm Trooper pigs. Or Rebel Pilots that split into three tiny birds to give you broader hit radius, a variation of the scatter-shot bird from the original. Though there are some bird-types that we’ve seen before, there are plenty of new additions, such as the brilliant laser-firing birds which add an extra layer of strategy.
Then we have the pigs. You’ll see pigs flying around in TIE Fighters, Death Star Troopers with helmets that require extra penetration, laser turrets trying to shoot you down from the skies, and even appearances from the likes of Darth Vadar and Yoda. In addition, players get access to some excellent power-ups such as the Millennium Falcon, which you can use sparingly instead of a standard bird when you’re struggling to get past a level. Toss a mini Falcon up in the air and then press ‘X’ at the spot where you want to call it in. A large Falcon then whizzes through the skies blasting everything in that radius.
In addition to the 200 plus levels and exclusive and bonus content, there’s also Trophies to collect, online leaderboards and a multiplayer mode, which includes offline co-op and score attack mode for up to four players. It’s a nice addition which gives players some extra replay value and the chance to unlock further Trophies, providing you’ve got people at home to play with, but it would have been nice to have an online mode.
As you’d expect from an Angry Birds game, the physics and ragdoll system is excellent with structures toppling, cracking, smashing and breaking up realistically based on the exact spot where you penetrate fortresses. Similarly, level design can’t be faulted with dozens of challenging stages decked out in Star Wars glam that require logic to solve.
If this was the first Angry Birds game, then we’d be raving about it, but even with all the new bells and whistles the action still gets a little repetitive, possibly because we’re so familiar with the series from its original iOS days. Nevertheless, Angry Birds Star Wars is the most explosive entry in the series thus far and pays excellent homage to George Lucas’s classic franchise while bringing with it the same addictive gameplay and challenging bird-flinging action that fans know and love.