Angry Birds 2 Review: Pay or Die

Angry Birds 2 is actually the 13th game in the franchise – a lucky number, that.

It comes on the heels of years Angry Birds Fever, hype, merchandise and various imitators.

It’s a nifty new take on the old formula – much more than just a new installment in the franchise – with better graphics and a few new twists.

The stages are now more colorful and livelier and livelier than they used to be. Each level pops with color and activity. Flowers spit debris from your attack and may knock over other buildings; rockets shot into the sky; little green piggies come flying onto the screen. The sound design is also pretty good, matching the frenetic animations in every way.

There’s a little one Rayman Legends Sense of all the craziness, both in the graphics and the sound design. The boss pigs even fly away after you defeat them, similar to the mage from the Rayman Play and play a bit like King Koopa Mario. It’s all very attractive as far as these things go.

Here’s how the modified approach to shooting birdballs at pigball forts works:

You are given Angry Bird cards at the start of each game, and you can use each card in any order. Each has their own special power and can take down different elements of the pig forts in their own unique way. There’s strategy in deciding which bird to use when, especially since you don’t refill cards immediately as you progress through the stages of a level. If you collect more points, you will get a tie from the deck instead. The better and more destructive your shot is, the more points you get.

Angry Birds 2 also introduces spell cards into the mix. Each has its own special power: rubber duckies falling from the sky in a devastating airstrike; a blizzard capable of completely freezing pig forts to ice. This deepens the strategic element of the game and gives you brief moments of overwhelming joy. It’s clever and fun.

Sorry for all the nice changes and innovations to the Angry Birds Formula, Angry Birds 2 falters fairly quickly thanks to its poor implementation of in-app purchases.

I may be an impatient mobile gamer, but I don’t like being told I have to wait to play a game. I mean, I don’t like loading screens – and I think their perpetuation in modern video game consoles is an industry failure – but I despise the forced wait that only free-to-play games impose on us.

Its implementation in Angry Birds 2 is absolutely terrible. Some games require you to wait for a structure to be completed, but you can go ahead and build other things and engage in other ways (to a degree). This is where the game just grinds to a halt.

As is so often the case, the problems begin with gemstones.

in the Angry Birds 2 You can use gems to retry levels without having to start over. Or you can enter the competition arena without waiting. Neither really bothers me.

No, the real problem is lives.

Once you run out of all five lives, you can either spend gems for an extra life, or wait. Gems can be found in small amounts within levels or by completing objectives, watching promo videos, or playing with friends. (The game endlessly bugs you about having to go head-to-head with a buddy – annoying, but not groundbreaking.)

Of course, the easiest and fastest way to acquire gems is to buy them with real money. Unfortunately for developer and publisher Rovio, when told we have 12 minutes to refill a life – rather than paying for gems – players like me would rather just give up the game. And sometimes when you give up a game for such reasons, you don’t pick it up again.

I’m not fundamentally against free-to-play. It can be an effective way to monetize and engage players – if implemented properly. However, when done poorly, it is frustrating and offensive.

With Angry Birds 2, a perfectly fine puzzle game, was shot down by its own revenue model. I wouldn’t call it “greedy”. Games are a product and game development is a business. You should make money. Greedy isn’t the right word, but there are words to describe it: Stupid, amazing, stupid.

So life is. It was nice while it lasted, but I doubt I’ll keep it installed. I hate waiting for most things in life, but if I’m going to wait then it better be worth it. Angry Birds 2 is not.

I often give free-to-play games a buy rating on my buy/hold/sell scale simply because they’re free and you might as well try them. I’ll give this one a hold. Maybe if enough people stay away, Rovio will tinker with the formula and make it a better, more enjoyable experience.

Angry Birds 2

Platform: Android, iOS
developer: Rovio entertainment
Publisher: Rovio entertainment
Released: July 30, 2015
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
score: 4/10

This game was reviewed on a Galaxy Note 3.

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