After the incredible success of the original Angry Birds, it can be argued that the series has been superseded in popularity by games by developers that embraced the free-to-play model faster than Rovio.

Look at the top grossing apps on Apple's App Store today and you won't see an Angry Birds game anywhere near the top 10. Not even in the top 20.

The Candy Crush franchise, Game of War and Clash of Clans rule the roost these days and Rovio has to do something special to get back its mojo.

That's not to say the company isn't still successful; Angry Birds 2 has been downloaded more that 85 million times to date. But it needs something to thrust the Angry Birds back into the limelight. A movie, perhaps?

The Angry Birds Movie opens in UK cinemas on 13 May and could well be the fulcrum for an Angry Birds revival. Rovio has also created a new game to run alongside its release that is its most ambitious yet. It is effectively betting the farm on Angry Birds Action for iOS and Android.

The game itself is interesting. It takes the original bird-flinging idea but now that the birds (and piggies) have legs and wings, adds extra elements to come up with something familiar but fresh.

You still pull back and release the ill-tempered feathered friends on well constructed levels, but this time they are collecting eggs (or sweets in later levels) rather than dispatching porkers. And the action is viewed from above.

It makes for a cross between the original Angry Birds and mini-golf, with a dash of pinball thrown in for good measure.


Accurate aiming will bounce the bird off well-place objects and, hopefully, collect all the eggs on screen in one fell swoop. In a way, each level has par and you must complete it therefore in as few attempts as possible.

Levels are also split into three sections to complete, and as there are a set number of birds (lives) you can use, you really don't want to be wasting turns.

To make things even more interesting, the levels on Bird Island have a random element, with a spin wheel before each potentially adding extra obstacles. Sometimes they can even help, with bomb crates clearing levels quickly when you crash into them.


After levels have been completed, not only do you get up to three stars to show how well you did, each star also gives a key to an unlock, with gems, coins and extra turns on offer. You'll need the latter perhaps the most as, like many free-to-play games, you are limited as to how many levels you can play in a go. And with only three on offer until the requisite timer ticks down, it's stingier than a lot of peers.

However, we've found extra turns to be regularly rewarded, so play sessions have a way of extending beyond enforced limitations.

You can also pay real cash for gems in order to buy additional lives in the game, when you are close but not close enough to complete a particularly tough section. That's an obvious addition in the age of free-to-play business models. Rovio though has other ways for you to enjoy and enhance the game, and not through in-app purchases.

Thanks to the movie release, there will be a lot of merchandise available over the coming weeks and months. Several key partnerships with major brands will see a flood of Angry Birds tie-in products, several of which are already on shop shelves. MacDonald's is also branding its Happy Meals with Angry Birds for a while.


These are important to the game in that each comes with a "Bird Code" - a small augmented reality target that, when scanned using the button in the game your phone or tablet, adds extra content to Angry Birds Action, even entire mini-games.

Special edition Pez dispensers and Peperami sticks come with them, for example, and each has a different mini-game that you can unlock just by scanning the code on the packet or product. Angry Birds Lego sets have codes too, which unlock games but also 3D views of the final build.

Each mini-game also unlocks power-ups to help your progress in the main levels of Angry Birds Action, and there are thousands of Bird Codes to be found worldwide. Get your phones ready now collectors. And plane tickets.


It's a massive scale operation, but Rovio hasn't stopped with AR enhancements. It also has a selection of secret levels in the game, based on Piggy Island, that can only be unlocked if you watch the movie in the cinema.

At the end of the film, while the end credits roll, you are encouraged to get out your phone and load the game. It will recognise the audio and unlock the extra content - offer a video of an exclusive alternative ending too. Clever technology is at work too, to prevent users from recording the audio and others using that for unlocks.

It's odd that you'll be able to wave around your phone in a venue that normally, positively frowns on such a thing, but it's only after the movie has finished and other customers are leaving.

First Impressions

Angry Birds Action is a fun and capable game in itself, but it is its AR extension that is most interesting.

Being rewarded for scanning Bird Codes placed on products you might buy already is good. And you don't necessarily need to buy merchandise yourself. You can always ask someone else if they will kindly let you scan their Happy Meal box in MacDonald's, for example.

Some might see it as a cynical attempt to sell more Angry Birds products, but it actually provides Rovio with an alternative revenue stream to in-app purchases, which in itself benefits the player as there are fewer things you need to buy in the game using real cash.

We also asked Rovio whether it will employ Bird Code support in future or even past games through updates and that's a possibility, based on the success of Angry Birds Action. That would make the existing AR codes out there even more useful.

Whether it will put Angry Birds back to the top of the tree is yet to be seen, but Angry Birds Action is fresh enough to have a jolly good go.

It's available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play now.