The Angry Birds series is an easy target, especially for hardcore gamers. It is, after all, capable of appealing to the most casual non-gamers on the planet. Add in the cute graphics and you're a far cry from Call of Duty. And yet, there are some very hardcore gaming tenets at play here. High scores, perfecting strategy, resource management. It may be hidden in a veneer of adorable birds, but this is very clearly a gateway game. And the next step after you've passed through the gateway? Angry Birds Space.
The Angry Birds series is an easy target, especially for hardcore gamers. It is, after all, capable of appealing to the most casual non-gamers on the planet. Add in the cute graphics and you're a far cry from Call of Duty.
And yet, there are some very hardcore gaming tenets at play here. High scores, perfecting strategy, resource management. It may be hidden in a veneer of adorable birds, but this is very clearly a gateway game. And the next step after you've passed through the gateway? Angry Birds Space, which released today for PC, Mac, iOS and Android.
Once again, hardcore gamers will be quick to mock. Space is, after all, well-worn sequel territory for movies and games. But there's far more at play than just a background palate swap in Angry Birds Space. There's some excellent game design here.
Angry Birds Space is all about gravity. Gravity was obviously part of the original games, but it was an unchanging variable, always the same, Earth-like consistency. In space, however, gravity lets its hair down.
Levels in Angry Birds Space usually involve small planets with their own gravity wells. You can use these gravity wells to fling a bird into the orbit of a small planet and have it circle around to the back to target space pigs. Or to merely change the trajectory slightly. A helpful aiming guide shows just how much the gravity will affect your shot, cutting out a lot of the guesswork that's always been a big part of the series.
So why is this a huge risk? It's different. Very different. Casual, Angry Birds-playing commuters get the concept of the original game because there aren't any layers of depth beyond what powers each bird has. Toss in a major variable like gravity and suddenly it's a very different game.
And, if I may say, a better game. I've just finished the first 30 levels or so, but in that time I've used techniques and strategy that I'd never even considered in the random chaos of the first few Angry Birds games. Flinging an exploding bird into a cluster of debris to push a number of pigs into the atmosphere of a nearby planetoid is a multi-step strategy that just never existed before.
I have no doubt that this deeper, less random, more strategic style of play will be a hit with more hardcore Angry Birds players, but will the casual fans take hold? Hard to say, but I certainly hope so. Slowly but surely we'll make gamers out of them yet.
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