It took me a couple of hours to burn through 80 levels in the first Angry Birds. In Angry Birds 2, getting to level 80 took a week and a half. This is good. It is also very, very bad.
It's good because of the changes Rovio has made to the Angry Birds structure in the sequel, released late last week after being in testing as Angry Birds: Under Pigstruction in Canada for ages.
At its core it's still the same game it's always been -- players fling birds with a particular set of skills at pigs perched on precarious structures. Physics happens. Things break. Points are accrued. Should all the pigs die, the player is a murderer, and the level complete.
In Angry Birds 2 however, levels are split into a series of stages -- generally from two to five. And instead of a set selection of birds, players are randomly dealt cards representing the birds in their hand, along with special magical affects -- a ray that randomly inflates pigs, rubber ducky rain or our old friend the Mighty Eagle, swooping in to wipe the stage clean.
Thus a new element of strategy comes into play. The player's cards are limited, and extras are rewarded sparingly, so using the right bird for the right pig assassination gig is more important than ever. Plus the stages aren't set in each level -- elements and building configurations can change between one run and the next.
It's challenging -- more challenging than the core Angry Birds series has ever been. That's part of why those 80 levels took so long.
Unfortunately it's also the worst sort of free-to-play, the other major reason it took so long to play through the first 80 levels.
First off we've got lives. Five lives, on a timer. Run out and you wait. Run out of bird cards before the end of a level and you lose a life. While you're waiting for your life to refill you can play in the daily tournament, a survival style mode with a set number of bird cards, but you can only enter once every three hours or so.
Of course there are ways around the timers and lost lives. Gems can add another tourney fight, more bird cards into your hand or refill your lives. You get a bunch just for downloading the game, but once those are gone the free flow of in-game currency slows significantly, and paying real cash is the only way.
(Note gem prices are from Canadian build of the game)
...would you like to watch a video for another life? Would you like to watch a video for an extra card? Watching a video can get you another tourney win. Want to watch a video?
I have watched so many goddamn videos over the past week and a half. I am sick of the fucking videos.
They get a lot of flak, but what Rovio did with older installments of the Angry Birds franchise was pretty spectacular. We'd buy a game for a relatively low price, burn through the initial levels and then sit around waiting for more free content to roll in. It almost wasn't fair to Rovio. There were light microtransactions here and there, but for the most part Angry Birds fans had an endless stream of relatively free content that they could play freely without restriction.
Angry Birds 2 is making up for lost time in the restriction department. There's nothing quite as frustrating as rolling into a level on your last life and having the random number generator behind the scenes decide one of the pigs is going to fly into the air on a balloon, requiring one of your precious birds to go on a fruitless suicide mission, as opposed to all of the fruitful ones. Running out of cards in that situation is almost a given, and god I am sick of the video prompts.
Somewhere beneath all of this nonsense is a solid Angry Birds game. It looks better than ever, sounds wonderfully whimsical and features some nifty new ideas that could have really carried the franchise forward were it not stopping every other minute at the free-to-play toll booth.
Angry Birds 2
Genre: Physics puzzler
Price: Free (with microtranaction-focused manufactured restrictions)