Back in 2009, a small Finnish company called Rovio released a mobile game you might have heard of – Angry Birds. It was fun, cute, addictive, and easy to play – an ideal time-waster regardless of whether you had a minute, an hour, or a day to spare. And the rest is history. Angry Birds was quick to land at the top of the video game charts, selling roughly 12 million copies within its first year on the App Store. Over time, it spawned multiple spinoffs, which, together with the classic Angry Birds game and its varieties, boast a whopping 3 billion downloads across multiple platforms.
That old, familiar feeling
Yup, it is an Angry Birds game alright
Boy, it has been a while since we last played anything remotely close to Angry Birds. Indeed, the game was lots of fun back in its young days, but at some point, it just lost the appeal it once had. Today, however, the familiar sound of birds, pig grunts, and explosions, can again be heard throughout our office. Everyone around here is excited to try the newest, and hopefully greatest, Angry Birds game ever made. And so far, everyone seems to be enjoying Rovio's new title.
Those who might not be thrilled by Angry Birds 2, however, are fans expecting a totally different game experience. This is still Angry Birds, guys – you fling the same old wingless birds at the same old green pigs, trying your best to clear each stage with a 3-star score. That is not to say that Angry Birds 2 rests on the franchise's laurels. As a matter of fact, the gameplay could have been enhanced just enough to get people hooked on Angry Birds once again.
So, what's new in Angry Birds 2?
Quite a bit, actually. One of our favorite additions brought by Angry Birds 2 is that stages now consist of multiple screens, which you must clear one by one. What's more, pigs' forts appear in different order each time you retry a stage. These two gameplay tweaks add a welcome dose of challenge and variety to the game. But that's far from all.
At the beginning of each stage in Angry Birds 2, you're given a set stack of birds. Since it does not refill between stage screens, you're required to use strategy when picking the bird you want to fire at the pigs next. Yes, you're allowed to do that now. Many stage screens can be passed using just one, carefully selected bird, but if you carelessly spend all your birds on a single stage screen, you'll have nothing to clear the rest of the stage with. Unless you manage to win a bird card during the stage. This is done by filling up the so-called destructometer – the more objects you destroy, the higher the meter goes.
Angry Birds 2 features bigger, multi-screen stages, pretty graphics, and better character animations
While the above paragraphs just highlighted some of the best gameplay tweaks in Angry Birds 2, there's a lot more to like about the new game. Boss fights, are a good example. You get one for each 10 stages you clear, and your goal is to defeat one massive pig by all means necessary. Slinging birds straight at bosses isn't very effective as they have a ton of health. Blasting them with TNT or tipping a tower over them are much more efficient ways of clearing boss stages. While normal stages are fairly easy to clear, boss fights require skill and strategy, especially at the later stages of the game.
Once at stage 26, you'll be allowed to enter the Arena. Think of it as an endless series of stages where you aim for the highest score, and you compare points with other players. We didn't spend a lot of time playing that mode, however, as we're only allowed to compete once per 12 hours.
Foreman Pig - one of the many bosses in Angry Birds 2
Spells are another fun gameplay element in Angry Birds 2. These give you a serious advantage over the pigs as they can weaken or even destroy their fortifications. The Golden Duck spell, which is probably our favorite, sends down an Armageddon-like shower, inflicting massive damage. The Hot Pepper spell sets a random pig on fire, causing it to explode with TNT-like strength. Or you may freeze the stage and make the forts' walls a lot easier to break. Spells are not free, however. They can bought before entering a stage, and each spell has its price in gems. Yes, gems.
Advertisements, lives, and in-app purchases
Of course, Rovio needs to pay wages to its employees. That's why while the game itself is free to play, it also features an in-game currency called gems. These can be obtained by completing challenges, by receiving daily rewards, or, of course, by paying for it with real money.
What are gems used for? Well, you may use them to buy the spells we mentioned above or to play in the Arena without having to wait. You may also pay with gems to earn 3 extra birds mid-stage in case you run out. But what you'll be most tempted to spend gems on are lives. Simply put, you lose a life when you fail to clear a stage, and if you lose all five lives, you'll be offered a refill costing 60 gems. To put things into perspective, 80 gems cost a buck and 560 gems cost $5.99.
Gems are an in-app currency used to buy bird cards mid-game or extra lives
If you want to continue playing without spending gems on extra lives, you may wait for 30 minutes or so – that's how long it takes for one life to regenerate. Your other option is to watch and ad. Yes, Angry Birds 2 features advertisements, but they're not of the pop-up kind you might be familiar with. You see, each time you run out of lives or fail to beat a stage, you're offered to watch a promotional video. These last 30 seconds, can't be skipped, and give you one extra life or another bird in exchange. We don't like ads, of course. Nobody does. But between watching a 30-second video and not being able to play for 30 minutes, the former seems like the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, you don't get unlimited retries for watching ads. While we're not exactly sure how the ad system works, you seem to get the offer only once per stage, and sometimes you don't get offered to watch ads at all.
At the end of the day, Angry Birds 2 is a fresh new take on the original's slingshot action formula. The game has remained pretty much the same at its core, but it has been vastly improved in terms of gameplay, graphics, and variety. It is cute, amusing, addicting, and totally worth trying, especially at its zero price.
However, we do feel like Rovio could have done a bit more to get Angry Birds fans hooked once again. While having the new spells and level designs is nice, one or several new birds would have been welcome. After all, this is a major release in the series, and we're still playing with the cast from 2009, for the most part. Or why not add new types of pigs? Or new types of fort materials? While we've been having quite some fun during this review, some gamers will surely get that more-of-the-same feeling when they try Rovio's new title.
Then there are the 5 lives system and the in-game purchases. Many will find them highly annoying, especially when part of the original Angry Birds' addiction factor came from being able to retry stages until you got three stars. But Rovio needs to generate profit somehow, and while we're not fans of the chosen model, it seems to be what works best for the company. On the bright side of things, Angry Birds 2 is far from the worst when it comes to in-app purchases. Some games out there make you wait for hours before you can make any progress. Imagine that.
That said, we'd advise you to give Angry Birds 2 a try, regardless of how much time you've spent playing the previous releases. Those 240 explosion-filled stages, dozens of boss fights, and endless Arena challenges won't beat themselves, you know.