A Look at the iPhone’s Angry Birds Proves the Value in Simplicity

Angry BirdsWhile many games try to make themselves more complicated, a older iPhone title called Angry Birds proves that simplicity is often the most lucrative solution. Developed by Rovio Mobile, this quaint physics-based puzzle game has frequently found itself at the top of the iPhone’s paid app list. Even its more expensive iPad rendition, Angry Birds HD, has remained consistently within the top ten.

With simple controls and an even simpler concept, the socially integrated Angry Birds is a puzzler that quickly becomes addictive with its excellent sense of style and visual appeal. As good as it may be, however, the $0.99 application is not perfect with moderately annoying accuracy problems and the occasional “brick-wall” puzzle.

Long story short, strange looking green pigs have stolen the eggs from a very temperamental group of birds in an attempt to cook them. As they retreat back to their various “fortresses” (and the term is used loosely in most cases), it is up to the birds to use themselves as projectiles to take their enemies out.

Each level — and there are about a metric ton of them — consists of different structural layouts that contain a few of the green pig guys. In order to complete the stage, the player must launch their angry birds from a giant slingshot in order to take out every last one of them. The catch is that one has a limited number of avian ammunition.

StructuresThis is where physics takes over. Using these limited shots, players must figure out and target specific weak spots in each structure in order to effectively take out all the enemies. Furthermore, each structure is made up of different materials such as glass, wood, or stone. Depending on the material, it will more easily topple, break, or hold more weight. Moreover, these could be round, angled, or flat, so where one strikes makes a huge difference.

Each piece of the structure, as well as the pigs themselves, has a set amount of health. It isn’t a matter of having to directly hit them, but with force them to incur enough damage from falling, debris, or the bird itself essentially vaporizing. In order to help do this, players will periodically acquire new types of birds, with special abilities, to use in higher levels such as a little blue one that splits into three birds when tapped. This doesn’t make the puzzles any easier, but adds another layer of thought to solving each one.

To add more depth to the game, scores, and a star rating from one to three for each level are determined by how many shots the player has remaining and how many parts of a structure has been destroyed. Furthermore, for the collector type of player, there are also “Golden Eggs” that are apparently hidden about the levels and act like a sort of secondary achievement system.

Moving into complaints, one of the few problems is the general accuracy of each shot. This isn’t to say that the physics are off, but it is a bit difficult to be precise with repeat shots as the aiming is incredibly sensitive.

Special BirdsIn order to shoot, one has to pull back on the slingshot with their finger and adjust its trajectory before releasing. The issue is that even the slightest vertical alteration can send the bird way off course, and since the screen is so small, it’s extremely hard to tell where you are aiming (even with the dotted trajectory line that represents the last shot). It’s an issue, obviously, resolved with the larger iPad version, but forking out an extra $4 for just that, doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.

A lot of the early levels can be surprisingly difficult as well. For hardcore puzzle fans, this probably isn’t a big deal (in truth, this is just picking nits), but it is very easy to get stuck and frustrated. Unlike other iPhone puzzlers we’ve seen in the past, such as Blockoban, there are no noticeable hints or help, which can lead to eventual frustration.

On the social end of things, Angry Birds also comes with integration to the same social network Modern Conflict came with, Crystal. With it, players can find other friends using methods such as Facebook or Twitter, view recommendations for other games, and compete in a huge number of leaderboards based on individual level high scores. In addition to this, the game also has unlockable and sharable achievements.

Overall, Angry Birds, for the iPhone is a fantastic puzzle game and comes highly recommended for fans of the puzzle genre. Its overly sensitive accuracy issues and lack of puzzle help or hints are issues, its true, but at worst they are minor. In the end, if one has an iPhone and a dollar, then Angry Birds is one app to add to the collection.