Angry Birds is one of, if not the, highest selling game on mobile devices right now. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s inexpensive, a great time sink that’s easy to pick up and put down, and it can be played right on your phone. The franchise has become such a phenomenon that you can purchase merchandise based on it (that costs more than the games themselves) and there are planned movie and television tie-ins. In other words, it has the kind of success that every indie developer strives for when they launch a game on an app store.
“So if the game is so great, this should be an open and shut review, right?” Well, not so fast. As enjoyable as Angry Birds can be, much of its appeal comes from experiencing it in short bursts. The question is: how does it fair as a full-on console release? It turns out, not as well outside its comfort zone.
Angry Birds Trilogy is comprised of three titles and all of their updates: Angry Birds Classic, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio. If you’ve never played any them, at their core is a physics puzzle that revolves around flinging fat avians at pigs using a slingshot. In Angry Birds Classic, there are short story sequences that give some background as to why they’re so mad. Turns out, the conniving green pigs have been stealing eggs from their nests and attempting to cook them up. So the natural response, of course, is to fire themselves headlong into the structures they are hiding in to protect themselves.
The story sequences are infrequent, so much of your time will be spent delving into stage after stage, back to back. Since the game is made for touchscreens, the Wii U gamepad is a natural fit as the stylus gives the most control over the analog sticks. All you need to do to play is tap on the bird that’s loaded up in the sling shot, pull them them back to aim, and then let them go. There’s a lot of trial-and-error involved, though after you launch one you can see their trajectory marked with dotted lines so you have a better idea of where your bird will go the next time around. The objective is to either knock out all the pigs, or at the very least, cause the structures to fall and crush the pigs for you.
As you progress, you’ll unlock more birds in addition to the standard red one. Yellow birds can be tapped on to give them a burst of speed mid-flight to help topple some of the more solid structures. Blue birds will scatter into threes, allowing you to hit more targets at once. The black birds act as bombs that will detonate on their own, or can be tapped on to explode early. If you tap on the white birds, they’ll drop eggs that will knock out whatever is below them. There are also boomerang birds that behave as you might expect and giant red birds that function like wrecking balls. Since some stages will mix and match these different types, much of the strategy comes from using the right birds at the right times to cause the most destruction. Of course, to earn three stars in a stage and gain the highest score, one must refrain from using as many birds as you can, all while maximizing destruction. It’s quite amazing how much deliberating can go into such a simple design.
Sometimes it feels like a bit too much thought. After some simple introductory stages, the game doesn’t waste time turning the heat up on things. Stages that once took seconds to complete will morph into minutes and possibly hours as you try to figure out not only how to maximize the effectiveness of the birds, but doing it with the same precision each time. The physics of the structures don’t always make sense either, as things move in such a way as to defy the laws of gravity and the same shots don’t always bring the same results. As mentioned before, the game can be controlled with either the touchscreen or the analog sticks, but using the stylus is the most precise I found. There are also buttons associated with activating each bird’s ability or restarting the level, but using the large buttons on the touchscreen itself is far more useful for these functions. The game can be played without the TV if you so choose, though if you opt to have them both, you’re treated to two different views of the action. The television gives an overall view of the map while the gamepad will zoom in closer on the slingshot so it’s easier to aim. You can use the directional pad to zoom out or adjust the view if needed though.
Angry Birds Seasons can best be described as Angry Birds with a holiday motif, featuring stages built around such days as Halloween or Christmas. While these days may be joyous times of celebration in the real world, in the game it’s a signal for punishment. Even some of the early stages are frustratingly hard, cycling in the different bird types very early on in comparison to the classic game. It’s definitely intended for veterans, so if this is your first outing, beware.
On the other hand, Angry Birds Rio actually changes up the formula a bit and is actually a bit easier as a result. Rather then making pork patties out of pigs, you are trying to rescue your fellow birds from captivity, which is done by smashing into their cages. It ties directly into the movie Rio and even features several characters from that film. It also includes a few boss battles tossed in the mix. The stages as a whole are far better designed and it just feels more satisfying shattering cages than it does knocking out pigs who may or may not resist what you throw at them.
Though Angry Birds Trilogy looks great on the Wii U, both on the television and the gamepad, it certainly doesn’t tax the hardware on account of its simplistic 2D sprites. All of the characters have various facial expressions when flung around and sometimes the pigs will obtain black eyes from having stuff bumped into them. There’s also a nice bit of background scenery. The audio is a bit distracting though. It’s actually the first time I’ve heard what the sound effects were as when I’ve played it on my phone I always had it on mute. Glad to see I wasn’t missing anything. Lots of grunting and cheering are emitted from the speakers with an occasional jingle to let you know when you’ve won. It’s definitely a game best played with your own set of tunes in the background.
Despite missing Angry Birds Space or even Angry Birds Star Wars (which doesn’t surprise me), there’s still quite a lot of content here. All three games in the collection come with all of the additional content that was released in updates, plus a number of exclusive levels, which equates to hundreds of stages in total. Even though the Wii U doesn’t have its own achievement system, the achievements from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the title can be unlocked in-game if you so choose. Earning three stars on each level plus obtaining all of the collectibles is a feat in of itself, so certainly there’s no shortage of things to do. And let’s not forget the leaderboards for each stage of each game on the compilation. The issue becomes what you’re actually getting for your money.
Each of the Angry Birds games can be found on nearly every portable device and downloaded for a mere dollar or two depending on which version you get. The Wii U version’s MSRP is almost fifty (!) dollars. So despite being arguably the best version of the game you can play, it’s also the most expensive; even more so than the versions released to the Xbox 360 and PS3. The question is then, what is it worth to you? The game is undoubtedly fun, though it’s not something I see myself investing a lot of time in curled up on the couch at home. If I’m on a bus, in a waiting room, or just need to kill time on my phone, it is absolutely the perfect game to fire up. And the experience of the latter is a far, far cheaper of an investment.
Short Attention Span Summary
Angry Birds Trilogy arguably manages to be the definitive version of the game, but doesn’t do so without cost. Its MSRP is higher than any other version of the game and far exceeds the total investment needed to download all of its content on a mobile device. It brings together Angry Birds Classic, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio together in one package along with all of their respective updates and even a few exclusive stages. The Wii U’s gamepad lends itself well to the gameplay, as the touchscreen controls are far more accurate than any controller or motion controls can pull off, plus the off-TV play makes it a nice game to doodle with while having the television turned to something else. It’s best played in small doses though as was the intent with the original releases, so the investment being asked for this version of the game may be a bit much for most people. It would be a worthwhile pickup at a discount, but only if you’re okay with playing back to back physics puzzles on a console game.