We have to admit, we haven't been as excited about a Rovio game since we played the original Angry Birds all those many years ago (three, to be precise). The blend of rewarding casual gaming and Star Wars was always going to reinvigorate a franchise that, sadly, had plodded along trading on past victories and fond memories.
Taking a leaf out of the Lego games handbook, however, has been a masterstroke. After all, who wouldn't want to fling the smug, fresh-faced Luke Skywalker into the side of a badly constructed building. We sure would...
Angry Birds Star Wars
- iPad (version tested), iPhone, iPod touch, Android,
- Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, PC, Mac, Kindle Fire
- Varies - from free to 4.95 Euros
- iTunes (iPhone/iPod touch), iTunes (iPad),
- Google Play, Windows Phone Store and other
- respective appstores (hit "download game")
With gameplay that's essentially a cross between Angry Birds and Angry Birds Space, some might think that Angry Birds Star Wars is the same yet again but with a LucasArts lick of paint. They would be wrong as, although the basic premise is the same, the Star Wars element adds entirely new strategies and styles.
For a start, even though the playable birds look like their original counterparts in wigs, they have radically different power ups and properties depending on the characters they depict. The game takes its cue from the original trilogy (thank the heavens) so features that specific storyline and respective features.
Luke Skywalker, for example, gains a lightsaber midway through the Tatooine levels. Instead of just flinging him at sand people and stormtroopers as you had to previously, a touch of the screen prompts him to make a one-off sweep that destroys everything it touches. Obi Wan Kenobi has a force push power-up which propels nearby enemies and objects through the air. Han Solo has a directional blaster to kill bad guys and shoot through walls. And so on and so forth.
These new, impressive powers are counteracted by all new defensive abilities of the pigs. Early on Tatooine, they acquire laser cannons, so fire volleys into the air which you have to consider in your timing. And we'd expect the AT-AT Walkers (when they arrive with the Hoth update) to do similar. It is this, partly, that makes Angry Birds Star Wars and all new kettle of parrot fish.
The Mighty Eagle from conventional AB has been replaced with the Mighty Falcon - the Millennium Falcon, obviously - which can be used to swoop down and blast everything in the vicinity of your marker. But you should use it sparingly as it is both difficult to acquire through gameplay alone (you get five of them after 30 stars are earned) and in-app purchases of them can be pricey, starting at £1.49 for 20.
In fact, that's the only factor that's not particularly fantastic about Angry Birds Star Wars, certainly on the iPad, the version we've tested. You are asked to pay £1.99 for the HD version of the app itself. It comes with 40 levels on Tatooine, 40 on the Death Star (unlocked through gameplay) and 10 bonus levels featuring R2-D2 and C3PO. Another 40 levels on Hoth is promised as a free update in the near future, but the open level "Path of the Jedi" - based on Dagobah - will cost you an extra £1.49 if you want to play it beyond the first level. That's £3.48 if you want the complete game.
Seeing as it's free on Android (although also £1.99 for the HD version best suited to tablets), you seem to be getting a rum deal. We say "seem" as, to be honest, we're willing to pay for a title of this quality. But, you know...
We don't know if the initial wow factor will wear off after several hours of play, but at present even the opening title music still makes us want to run around like kids with our coats over our heads. The sound presentation throughout, it must be said, is incredible.
As is the game all round. Yeah, we wish there was more content available from day one. And yeah, it rankles that you have to cough up extra bucks for extended gameplay and features. But boy, have Rovio and LucasArts got a hit on their hands.